To nap or not to nap, that’s the question. The answer is … well, it depends. Statistics show one-third of Americans nap every day. And it’s been shown that a nap is more effective than caffeine for beating midafternoon sleepiness. Millennium Physician Group Sleep Medicine Specialist Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, MD, says that when it comes to sleep, you really can have too much of a good thing.
“If you are a good napper and you wake up after a 20 to 30-minute nap and you’re refreshed and you function great, and it doesn’t affect the quality of your sleep at nighttime, then go for it.”
But sadly, naps aren’t for everyone.
“If you are somebody who struggles to sleep at nighttime, then I usually recommend that you don’t take naps,” advises Dr. Abbasi-Feinberg. “Because you really want to try to increase your need for sleep by the time that it’s bedtime.”
According to the Sleep Foundation, it’s especially common for older adults to experience changes in the quality and duration of their sleep. Mental and physical health conditions may be partly to blame. Conditions that commonly affect sleep in older people include depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, and conditions that cause discomfort and pain, such as arthritis.
“I encourage all patients to mention any sleep concerns that they have to their primary-care physician” says Dr. Abbasi-Feinberg. “And I encourage primary-care physicians to ask about sleep issues.”
Getting less shut-eye can have a negative effect on your overall health. Insufficient sleep in older adults can lead to a higher risk of falls and accidents. And in fact, research has found people who napped twice a week lowered their risk of heart disease. These are just a few reasons why Dr. Abbasi-Feinberg advises we all make sleep a priority.
“My favorite thing about sleep medicine is the fact that what I do really can change a person’s life,” she says.