Many people fall asleep at night as soon as their heads hit the pillows and don’t wake up until the alarm goes off the morning after. However, the privilege of being able to fall asleep easily when one goes to bed at night is not quite as prevalent. There are those who have difficulty falling or staying asleep, conditions that result in feelings of sluggishness and lack of energy the following day. Although and individual’s sleep pattern changes as time passes, his or her need to sleep doesn’t. According to Harvard Medical School, just like diet and exercise, a good night’s sleep is essential for good health.
The question is; Can or does the body have to make up for the loss of adequate sleep during the night? According to National Institute of Health US report, the body does not forget the lack of sleep. Instead, the body reacts to sleep deprivation by producing too much of “adenosine,” a compound that accumulates in the blood. Adenosine is believed to play a role in promoting drowsiness and suppressing brain activity, its level increasing with each hour an organism stays awake following a bout of sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep will keep the adenosine level too high as the body fights against prolonged wakefulness, which makes one drowsy throughout the following day, signifying sleep debt.
Conversely, during sleep, the body breaks adesosine down. Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get at least seven hours of sleep every night but many people regularly fall short of that goal. Fuzzy-headedness, irritability and fatigue are all indications of sleep debt. And, as this debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting an individual at a growing risk of many diseases. Are you among them? Lack of sufficient sleep tends to disrupt hormones that control hunger and appetite and the resulting daytime fatigue often cause sugar cravings while discouraging physical activity. Thus, sleep-deprived people are more likely to gain weight.
Findings about Napping
While earlier studies on afternoon naps claimed that napping might slightly increase the risk of heart attack, newer and more controlled studies have shown the opposite; an inverse relationship between taking short naps and fatal heart attacks. Moreover, in the latest epidemiological studies, experts found that sleep deprivation caused measurable changes in glucose metabolism, autonomic nervous system activity and other variables, which are plausible mechanisms by which inadequate sleep could contribute to type-2 diabetes.
Short duration of sleep is also a predictor of the incidence of cardiovascular disease especially in older individual who are prone to hypertension. Furthermore, the amount of sleep a person needs increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous day. Eventually, the body will demand that the debt be repaid, which can be accomplished by taking short snoozes or naps.
Not Just for Babies
While research has shown that napping is a beneficial way to relieve tiredness, it still has a stigma associated with it. There are those who opine that napping indicates laziness, and that napping is only for children, the sick and elderly. The reality is, the public may still need to be educated on the benefits of napping because sleeping during the day isn’t just for babies and elderly, it can be beneficial to people of all ages.
Boston University psychologist William Anthony, PhD, is an ardent campaigner on the good effects of napping. A short nap, he says, increase productivity, sharpens the senses, and increases motor performance.
At the Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit, USA, a study showed that napping is clearly beneficial to someone who is getting insufficient sleep at night. Center director Timothy Roehrs, PhD says, “We don’t understand the underlying neurobiology, but sleep time is cumulative.” The study found benefits in what it called “prophylactic nap” for people who have to stay up late. Naps are clearly useful for some people, including long shift workers, students and anyone doing long-haul work, such as pilots on transcontinental runs.
The US National Sleep Foundation categorizes naps in different ways. What they call “planned or preparatory napping” involves taking a nap before one actually gets sleepy. This technique may be used when one expects to be awake later than normal bedtime as a mechanism to ward off tiredness at a later time. Another typed called “emergency napping” can occur during times of sudden tiredness and the person cannot effectively continue the activity originally engaged in. This typed of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery. Lastly, the most common practices “habitual napping,” which is taken at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each day.
Concerned that a midday snooze might ruin a good night’s sleep? An ongoing research from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center indicates that while optimal napping can make up for inadequate or poor quality nocturnal sleep, they have little negative effect on sleep onset come nighttime. In addition, a good nap today may be beneficial for mental processing tomorrow.
The “How-to of Napping
When to have a nap? One might consider making time for a nap when experiencing fatigue or unexpected sleepiness, when losing sleep due to a long work shift, or staying up late for a special event or occasion. To get the most out of a nap, following these simple tips may help.
1. It is advisable to keep naps short, say for only about ten to 30 minutes. The longer the nap, the more likely one may feel groggy afterward.
2. The best time for a nap is usually mid-afternoon, around 2 or 3 pm. This is the time of day when one may experience post-lunch sleepiness or lower level of alertness.
3. To create a restful environment, napping in a quiet, dark place with aw comfortable room temperature and few distractions is ideal.
4. Rather than abrupt awakenings, giving one’s self time to gently wake up before resuming activities, particularly those that require a quick or sharp response, prevents mental disorientation.
It is also important to note that naps that exceed 45 minutes can have the opposite effect, allowing one to get into very deep sleep, with the result of awakening groggy and confused. Seep researchers also agree that anyone who wants to benefit from nap should make sure not to lie down too close to bedtime. Doing so can throw off the “circadian rhythm,” the body’s internal clock.
Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to cope with daily activities and rob the body of feeling of well-being. Naps, on the other hand, can be restored, allowing the body to return to equilibrium that’s been distributed by long wakefulness. As sleep debt is repaid, the body is more likely to return to its adequate sleep pattern. Therefore, earning back those lost hours of sleep and following the dictates of one’s innate needs for rest can help to improved mental and physical capabilities that come with being well rested. Nevertheless, it is still best to keep in mind that getting enough sleep at night on a regular basis is the best way to stay alert and feel at one’s best to face the demands of the day. – by Susan Villaroman