To Snooze or Not to Snooze: Is Napping Healthy?

November 22, 2023 9 mins to read
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If there was a most wanted list for snooze button pushers…I’d be at the top! And frankly I’ve become a mid-day snoozer as well. All jokes aside, there is some interesting researching behind the health pros and cons of napping. So is napping healthy? Snooze button or no snooze button? In this article I go over the science behind the habit of snoozing and it’s impact on our health, including: why some of us often hit the snooze button, why too much snoozing can be a bad thing and the how-to’s of tackling sleep deprivation.

The Science Behind Snoozing

Recent research, including a study from the Journal of Sleep Research, provides some fascinating insights. Interestingly, nearly 60% of people give in to the snooze button’s irresistible allure. The study, which involved over 1,700 adults, revealed that those who opt for a few extra minutes tend to be younger and more likely to be night owls. They also experience more morning grogginess and shorter overall sleep times. So, hitting that snooze button could be an indication of deeper sleep issues, which should be looked at.

Another intriguing aspect of the research involved testing cognitive tasks immediately after a 30-minute snooze. The outcomes? Snoozing didn’t negatively impact stress hormone levels, mood, or sleep structure. In fact, it either had no effect or slightly improved cognitive test performance. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits (this ones for the snoozers) to a snooze. But it does suggest that a longer uninterrupted sleep is more valuable than 5-15 mins extra snooze time…at least in terms of health benefits.

Understanding the Impact

Dr. Thomas Kilkenny, a renowned sleep medicine expert, underscores that while snoozing doesn’t necessarily enhance mood or alertness, it helps individuals get their day off to a better start. The key takeaway here is moderation…A short snooze (around 30 minutes) isn’t harmful and might even help those struggling with morning drowsiness. But over 30 minutes and the body can start cycling into deeper stages of sleep, which when interrupted can leave you feeling more groggy and moody.

Why Do We Hit Snooze?

The urge to snooze stems from various factors, like inadequate sleep due to a late night or caring for a sick child. This sleep deficit leads us to delay waking up, an taking naps during the day. It’s essential to recognize when habitual snoozing is happening, because it might signal insufficient sleep or even a sleep disorder. Dr. Kilkenny advises that if waking up is consistently difficult, it’s worth considering a professional evaluation for sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy.

I’m a prime example…I’ve always been a night owl, but lately I’ve been staying up into the wee hours of the morning. This results in me being more tired and having to take a nap during the day. I’m also far less productive. This stems from difficulty in falling asleep…geeze maybe I should get a sleep evaluation haha! But seriously, if sleep becomes a problem then it might be worth a professional evaluation. Nutrition can provide some of the keys to solving our sleep issues, through nutrition targeted at deficiencies, relaxation and sleep. Book an online TeleHealth (Video Call) appointment with an integrative nutrition professional.

The Other Side of the Coin

As I touched on earlier in this article, while snoozing can be beneficial in moderation, overdoing it can be counterproductive. Repeatedly hitting snooze, especially during REM sleep, can intensify sleep inertia, leaving you groggier. Dr. Kilkenny notes that “night owls” often struggle more with morning grogginess regardless of sleep duration. And as a night owl, I can confirm that is correct.

Sleep Hygiene from a Holistic Nutritionist

So how do we remedy this? The answer is nutrition + lifestyle + sleep hygiene…but let’s dig a bit deeper into that.

Lifestyle | Holistic Nutrition

If you are a labor worker, there’s a good chance you sleep pretty well…physical exhaustion will have that affect. But for many of us working desk jobs or doing to school, we can spend most of our days sitting. So obviously getting in some exercise, whether that be a brisk walk in nature, or a moderate to intense exercise at the gym, or both can help in exhausting the body so it’s easier to fall asleep. Just don’t workout right before bed because that could have the opposite affect.

There’s also things you can do at the office or workplace like a standing desk; I use an electric standing desk. Then there’s the blue light from our computer and phone screens – Blue light blocking glasses can help to block that light, so the body’s natural circadian rhythm can kick in our own production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us to feel tired so we can fall asleep. You can also wear ear plugs if you live in a noisy place, or a sleep mask if there is light you can’t turn off; it’s its anything less than pitch black this might be a good idea to help improve your sleep quality.

Sleep Hygiene & Environment | Holistic Nutrition

This is basically your sleep routine and includes, wind-down or relaxation activities and things like: turning off electronics a couple hours before bed, listening to music, reading a book or journaling to relax, doing some relaxing yoga. If you absolutely must be on electronics I’d recommend 100% blue-light filtering (night) glasses at least 1hr before bed. Other activities that can help aid in relaxing and falling asleep are breathing exercises and meditation. Breathing exercises can be done while you lay in bed – you can help regulate the nervous system with controlled breaths, where the exhale is longer than the inhale. Meditation can also be quite effective and could be done sitting up in be or even laying down.

Sleep Nutrition | Holistic Nutrition

There are a variety of herbs and supplements that can help, if you’ve exhausted other avenues and still have sleep issues. Allot of people want that quick fix “give me a pill to solve my sleep problems” but it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. If you’ve lived a lifetime with bad sleep habits, it wont be easy, but look at each of these areas lifestyle, sleep hygiene/environment and sleep nutrition trying to make improvements in each as part of a well rounded sleep plan. You can book an appointment with an integrative nutrition professional as well, but for now here are some herbs/supplements you can pick-up and try:

  • Magnesium Threonate or Bisglycinate (before bed)
  • L-Theanine or GABA (before bed)
  • Vitamin D3 + K2 supplementation, especially if you don’t get much sunlight either due to where you live or the seasons e.g. Canada in winter. Vitamin D is, despite it’s name, actually a hormone, that plays a significant role in balancing other hormones and could potentially affect sleep.
  • Lavender – a couple drops on your pillow, or in a humidifier/diffuser or nebulizer can help to promote relaxation an a restful sleep.

For more tips book an appointment with a nutrition professional.

Tackling Sleep Deprivation

In the United States, chronic sleep deprivation is a significant concern, affecting millions. To combat this, we need to prioritize sufficient sleep amidst our busy lives. Steps to reduce snooze dependency include:

  • Ensuring 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.
  • Limiting alcohol and screen time before bed.
  • Avoiding excessive fluid intake before sleeping.
  • Engaging in regular exercise.

Conclusion

So, is hitting snooze and taking naps beneficial or detrimental? It appears that a short, controlled snooze/nap might offer some cognitive benefits without significant downsides. However, the overarching message is clear: ensure adequate, quality sleep nightly to minimize the need for that extra snooze time in the morning. Look at your sleep holistically and find was to integrate some of these suggestions on lifestyle, sleep hygiene/environment and nutrition to as part of a well rounded and healthy sleep plan. And yeah it matters bit time…your memory, brain performance, health and recovery…are all largely dependent on your getting a good quality sleep. So take this seriously, because your life and maybe even your future, depend on it.

Here’s to healthier mornings and more energized days!

References

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