45 Interesting Facts about Napping

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 31, 2016
  • Most Europeans, except the Germans, usually snooze or relax in the middle of the day. China, India, and parts of the Middle East are also big napping territories.[11]
  • An “Ask Men” survey asked men what they liked to do after making love. Taking a nap topped the list by a landslide. Having a snack came in second. Womens’ answers ranged from cuddling, talking, being left alone, and being fed.[3]
  • According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 74% of women get less sleep per night than men, yet women feel more guilt about napping than men.[7]
  • Sleep experts recommend keeping afternoon naps to fewer than 1.5 hours to avoid interfering with nighttime sleep. For most people, a snooze of 15–30 minutes is best.[12]
  • The National Commission on Sleep Disorders estimates that 60 million Americans are chronically sleep deprived and claims this condition is perhaps one of the biggest health problems plaguing our society today. Planned napping is one way to combat sleep deprivation.[11]
  • Taking a nap reboots your brain
  • Napping offers several benefits for creating healthy adults, including relaxation, reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved mood, improved performance, increased reaction time, better memory, and fewer accidents and mistakes.[1]
  • According to the University of California–Berkeley, the best time to nap is eight hours after waking and eight hours before nighttime sleep. For example, if you wake at 6 a.m. and go to bed and 10 p.m., then 2:00 p.m. would be an ideal time to nap.[8]
  • To counter grogginess, sleep researchers suggest keeping naps to 20 minutes or less. Longer naps can create a “sleep hangover” or sleep inertia and affect nighttime sleep.[8]
  • Over 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, which means that they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Humans are unusual in that they have two distinct periods of the day: sleep and wakefulness. Scientists are unclear if this bifurcation of the day is an artificial sleep pattern, or if breaking sleep into several naps over a 24-hour period is more natural.[10]
  • Humans are the only mammals who willingly delay sleep and plan naps.[1]
  • Those who relish naps are in good company: JFK, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and George A Bush all savored an afternoon nap.[10]
  • There are three types of naps: 1) planned napping, which involves planning to take a nap before a person gets sleepy; 2) emergency napping, which occurs when a person is suddenly very tired and cannot continue with an activity; and 3) habitual napping, or when a person takes a nap at the same time each day.[10]
  • A NASA study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.[5]
  • Dr. James B. Mass, a psychologist, notes that “Napping should not be frowned upon at the office or make you feel guilty [when] at home. It should have the status of daily exercise.”[7]
  • When the going gets tough, the tough take a nap.

    - Tom Hodgkinson

  • While research shows that napping has important health benefits, napping is still associated with several false stigmas in the U.S, including laziness, lack of ambition, low standards, or an activity exclusively reserved for children, the sick, and elderly.[10]
  • Short naps typically don’t affect nighttime sleep quality for most people. However, for those who suffer from insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, taking naps may exacerbate these problems.[8]
  • Not getting enough sleep has been found to increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and depression. Sleep, including napping, is as important as diet and exercise.[1]
  • Napping is better than drinking caffeine because caffeine can decrease memory performance. In other words, while a person may feel more alert after a caffeine fix, they are also more prone to making mistakes.[9]
  • While napping at work isn’t acceptable in the U.S., in Japan, dozing off in most jobs is acceptable, including in parliament and in businesses. Naps at work are called inemur, which means, “to be asleep while present.” Inemur is viewed as exhaustion from working hard and sacrificing sleep for the job. Many people even fake napping to look committed to their job.[13]
  • Sleep researchers suggest that repeating a simple word like “the” at irregular intervals blocks the mind from racing and helps a person to fall asleep at night or to take a nap.[13]
  • New parents lose from 400 to 750 hours of sleep during the first year with a newborn. La Leche League, the support group for nursing mothers, recommends that all new moms take a nap whenever the baby sleeps.[7]
  • New parents lose as much as 750 hours of sleep a year
  • A British study found that just knowing a nap was coming was enough to lower blood pressure.[7]
  • Researchers note that it’s common to have a little “hump” of midafternoon sleepiness programmed into person’s circadian schedule. An afternoon nap is one way to remedy the sleepiness.[7]
  • In 2008, British researchers compared getting more nighttime sleep, taking a nap, and using caffeine as a way to cope with afternoon sleepiness. Of the three, napping was the most effective.[8]
  • Even catnaps of 6 minutes (not counting the 5 minutes it takes to fall asleep on average) make a difference in how well people retain information.[2]
  • Google headquarters has “nap pods” that block out both light and sound.[11]
  • A 2009 study showed that air traffic controllers who worked the night shift scored better on tests of alertness and performance if they took advantage of a planned nap period. Such “strategic napping” at the workplace can help employees improve performance while avoiding “sleeping on the job.”[11]
  • While napping has significant health benefits, daytime sleepiness in older people may also be associated with Parkinson’s, diabetes, depression, and chronic pain—presumably because those conditions affect nighttime sleep.[8]
  • More U.S. businesses are incorporating planned napping
  • U.S. companies are incorporating nap facilities into the workplace. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 16% of those surveyed said their employers allow a nap.[7]
  • Napping during the day can perpetuate bad sleep habits for people with temporary sleep issues caused by stress, illness, or jet lag. Even just a little bit of a power nap can become just another episode of fragmented sleep.[8]
  • People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to eat more because sleep loss affects the hormones associated with hunger. However, a mid-afternoon nap can reverse the negative metabolic effects of sleep loss.[1]
  • A historical survey identifies napping in various literary sources, including a character in the Canterbury Tales who decides to go back to bed after her “firste sleep” and one 16th century French physician who noted that laborers were able to conceive more children because they waited until after their “first sleep” to make love.[11]
  • A study found that without the illumination and distraction from light bulbs, televisions, phones, or computers, subjects would wake up a little after midnight, lie awake for a couple of hours, and then drift back to sleep again, in a type of segmented sleep pattern. In short, given a chance to be free of modern life, the body would naturally settle into a more fragmented sleep/nap schedule.[11]
  • Since Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879, nighttime sleep for the average American has dropped from nine hours per night to less than seven.[7]
  • Artificial lighting has led to less sleep
  • A professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School postulated that sleep, including short naps, offers the brain a chance to decide what new information to keep and what to toss. This is one reason dreams may be so strange: it’s the brain's attempt to find connections between what is recently learned and what is stored in the long-term memory.[11]
  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, even with naps, the body never adjusts to shift work.[1]
  • The record for the longest period without sleep or napping is 18 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes in a rocking chair marathon. The winner had memory and concentration lapses, hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, and slurred speech.[2]
  • It is possible for a person to take catnaps with their eyes open without even being aware of it. In these instances, it is impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision.[2]
  • If it takes a person less than 5 minutes to fall asleep, he or she is most likely sleep deprived.[2]
  • The causes of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the 1980 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to humans who were sleep deprived.[2]
  • Drinking caffeine before a nap can help boost awareness
  • To boost alertness after a power nap (a 20-minute Stage 2 nap), sleep researchers suggest drinking caffeine before a nap. Caffeine requires 20–30 minutes to take effect, so it will kick in just as you’re waking.[12]
  • According to Australia’s National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), 1 in 6 fatal road accidents are caused by sleepiness. Pulling over and taking even a brief nap reduces the risk of accidents. Drowsiness is the last step before falling asleep; not the first.[1]
  • One of the most common and tempting sleep and nap distractions is the Internet because it is available 24-hours a day.[2]
  • A New Jersey woman who worked three jobs died while napping in her car in 2014. She died from both gasoline fumes from an overturned gas container she kept in her car and from carbon monoxide poisoning.[6]
  • A 91-year-old Polish woman was recently napping so heavily that her family and a doctor thought she had died. Eleven hours after being declared dead, she woke up in cold storage in a funeral home. Prosecutors are trying to determine if the doctor “exposed her to imminent danger or loss of life.”[4]
References

1"25 Random Facts about Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

240 Facts about Sleep You Probably Didn’t Know.” The National Sleep Research Project. 2000. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

3Burton, Vanessa. “What Women Want after Sex.” Ask Men. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

4Howard, Cory. “91-Year-Old Woman Wasn’t Dead . . . Just Napping Heavily.” ABC Fox Montana. Updated November 14, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

5How to Nap.” Boston Globe. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

6Kuruvilla, Carol. “New Jersey Woman Who Worked Multiple Jobs Dies While Napping in Her Car: Cops.” Daily News. August 28, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

7Long, Jill Murphy. Permission to Nap: Taking Time to Restore Your Spirit. Naperville, ILL: Sourcebooks, 2002.

8Napping: Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Adults.” Mayo Clinic. November 21, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

9Napping May Not Be Such a No-No.” Harvard Health Publications. November 2009. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

10Napping.” National Sleep Foundation. 2014. Accessed: November 3, 2014.

11Randall, David K. “Rethinking Sleep.” The New York Times. September 22, 2012. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

12Soong, Jennifer. “The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps." WebMD. 2010. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

13Winterman, Denise. “Are You Getting Enough?BBC News. Updated November 28, 2007. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

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