By: Doa Jamal, Francis College of Engineering Well-being Leader
It is often joked that college students fall asleep and can take a nap anywhere. In warmer weather you’ll find students lounging on the grass or in hammocks. Commuters rest in their cars. Have you ever just put your head down in the library and accidentally drifted asleep? And let’s not get started about those who fall asleep in class. Most of the time, these naps are well deserved.
But what about when there’s an assignment due soon and we procrastinate by taking a nap? What about when we say we’re going to take a short nap but end up sleeping for two hours? Do you recall the feeling when you wake up from a nap and actually feel worse than when you fell asleep? You may feel groggy and disoriented. There’s actually a word for that.
Sleep inertia refers to a transient state of confusion and a decrease in both cognitive and emotional functioning following the act of waking up from sleep. Individuals may experience delayed reaction times, impaired short-term memory, and a reduced pace in cognitive processes such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, and learning. Typically, sleep inertia only lasts for between 30 to 60 minutes, although its duration may extend for a longer period in instances of sleep deprivation, a condition commonly observed in numerous college students. Research shows that sleep inertia can even last for two hours. So, if you take a nap in the late evening or at night, you may remain groggy and choose to go back to sleep for the rest of the night instead of working on your assignment (I’m sure most of us are guilty of this). Remember when you said you’d go to sleep and wake up earlier in the morning to finish the work, but that didn’t happen because you couldn’t get up in the morning? Two words: Sleep inertia. Just do the assignment the day before and your future self will thank you.
Additionally, as we all know, naps can interfere with sleep at night. Typically, it is the longer naps that interfere with the nighttime sleep quality. Napping after 3 p.m. is more likely to interfere with nighttime sleep. If you already experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, then napping can actually worsen these problems.
So how do you take a proper nap? And I’ve mentioned the cons, but what are the benefits? A productive nap is a short nap. It is suggested to aim for 10 to 20 minutes. As mentioned before, it is better to take a nap in the early afternoon before 3:00 p.m. To achieve a high-quality sleep, it is essential to nap in a quiet, dimly lit environment with a moderate room temperature and minimal distractions. And be sure to give yourself time to wake up before doing activities that require a swift, cohesive or important response, such as completing a quiz.
Benefits of napping (if done properly) include:
- Relaxation and reducing stress
- Diminished tiredness
- Heightened vigilance
- Enhanced mood
- Improved overall performance, including faster reaction time and enhanced memory
- Can be good for the heart (by reducing stress). A study revealed that individuals who took a nap lasting 45 to 60 minutes exhibited reduced blood pressure levels following exposure to mental stress
- Taking short naps combined with moderate exercise can actually improve nighttime sleep
So next time you’re thinking about taking a nap, I hope you consider why you’re taking a nap, when you’re taking it, and how long you’re taking it for. Really ponder that nap and make an appropriate decision. Be sure to set an alarm to wake you on time. If you’re napping in a public place, especially in the library, make sure your alarm volume is low.
Happy napping, Riverhawks!