The Pros and Cons of Napping

By Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D. for What side of the bed are you on when it comes to naps?

Posted on | By Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D.

As a sleep specialist with an emphasis on treating insomnia, I’m constantly advising my patients to avoid naps since they can worsen sleepless nights. Naps are often thought of as the bad guy, but in reality they can be quite beneficial to most people who already sleep well at night.

America is a sleep-deprived nation. Although a brief snooze during the day doesn’t come close to making up for the nightly sleep we lose on a regular basis (because we’re too busy to make sleep a priority), naps can improve our overall daily functioning.

Although naps are often stigmatized as a sign of laziness or unproductivity, they can be very beneficial for workplace performance. Short naps have been routinely demonstrated to reduce accidents and mistakes while also improving attention, concentration, performance and alertness. Naps also help boost your mood and ability to manage stress. Naps can be used proactively to gain energy for a late night out. They can even be used effectively to combat drowsy driving when a short snooze is taken just before getting behind the wheel or using heavy machinery.

Routine, planned naps are necessary for some people, while others find that taking an occasional nap when sleepy might be all that is needed. For example, patients with narcolepsy find that planned short naps are crucial to managing their sleepiness every day. Shift workers also benefit greatly from brief naps just before night work or during a break, with some needing a nap before driving home to make sure they aren’t drowsy and behind the wheel.

Article written by Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D.