The Benefits of Napping


Sophie Kirkegaard

NIGHT OWL: Due to his involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities, sophomore Michael Shipley has little time to get enough sleep. “I usually have to do all my homework at night,” he says.

Sophie Kirkegaard, Editor in Chief

As high school students, it is almost impossible to get an adequate amount of sleep. School work, sports practices, and many other extracurricular activities fill students’ busy schedules, often meaning that having a healthy sleep schedule is not their main priority. Because of this, many students are caught in a continuous cycle of sleep deprivation, affecting their mood, work ethic, and overall well being. However, despite their jam-packed schedules, there is a way students can reach their daily recommendation of seven to nine hours of sleep: napping.

Sleep deprivation has become a nationwide health epidemic. According to a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, the average American gets approximately 6.8 hours of sleep each night, 40 percent less than the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) daily suggestion. In fact, this number continues to drop over time, with research showing that in the last 50 years the daily sleep average has dropped more than an hour. This lack of sleep has become especially common amongst young adults who face the responsibilities of school work, sports, jobs, and many other activities. Freshman Brandon Hong, who only receives an average of five hours of sleep each night, cites homework as the main reasons behind his lack of rest, explaining, “Homework and procrastination really keep me from getting enough sleep. I have to stay up late doing homework multiple nights each week, especially in my Language Arts and Japanese classes.” Sophomore Michael Shipley also frequently stays up late to finish his homework, especially when faced with quizzes or tests the next day, saying, “I have to stay up late to do my homework a couple times each week, mainly when I need to study or finish a big assignment.” This obvious issue of sleep deprivation amongst students leaves napping as one of the only options for teens to play catch up on their rest, boasting a plethora of health benefits.

As humans, we are classified as monophasic sleepers, meaning we divide our day in two different periods: wakefulness during the day, and rest at night. Surprisingly, as monophasic sleepers, humans are the minority amongst other mammals, 85 percent of which are polyphasic sleepers who rest for short periods throughout the day. In fact, there is no indication that this monophasic schedule is the natural sleep pattern for humans and there is a possibility that a polyphasic schedule could instead be better for our busy lifestyles. Along with this distinct sleep schedule, human’s also rely on their circadian rhythm to regulate their energy levels. These “biological clocks” regulate our sleep patterns and cycle through phases in which one’s energy level dips and rises, causing the average adult’s level of high fatigue and exhaustion to be between two and four in the morning and one and three in the afternoon. This short 10-12 hour period of energy explains why many feel an onset of tiredness during the middle of the day, in which a short period of rest has been shown to have substantial benefits on one’s overall alertness.

In much of today’s society, napping has acquired an underserved connotation with laziness. If you are caught napping at school or the workplace, you are often considered to be indolent and unmotivated. In fact, many people simply do not like napping, such as senior Daniella Villegas who dislikes naps because she feels “uncomfortable [waking up] during the middle of the day.” However, despite its unflattering reputation, recent studies have suggested that napping can instead be beneficial towards boosting one’s productivity and brain power. According to research conducted by Harvard Medical School, taking a 20-30 minute nap has been proven to improve one’s brain functionality by roughly 40 percent, especially in regards to retaining short term information. Due to these obvious benefits, schools and workplaces across the nation have begun implementing dedicated napping areas into their campuses and headquarters. Major companies such as Google and Zappos, as well as prestigious universities such as UC Berkeley and James Madison University, have all taken the lead in establishing peaceful rest areas for their employees and students. Not only have these napping areas provided individuals with a convenient opportunity to rest during the day, they have also served as an effective way to boost one’s energy and productivity levels, creating a more prosperous workplace or classroom.

Our busy lifestyles not only prevent us from receiving an adequate amount of sleep, but also often forbid us from having the time to take a nap. In fact, the often fast-paced and jam-packed schedules of the average American make it hard to set aside time during the day to rest. Because napping can be somewhat of an inconvenience, there are many other ways to reap similar benefits. Due to her busy schedule, junior Reagan Panah is often unable to find time during the day to rest and instead relies on other strategies, explaining, “When I’m tired during the day, I will maybe take a short nap if I have time, but I’m more likely to walk around or go on a short run and grab a snack.”

In our world today, it seems as if no one really stops and takes a rest. Despite the importance of work and education, the importance of a good night’s rest has become ignored, leading to possible health consequences down the road. Although napping is not always convenient, its newfound recognition for brain boosting benefits has the capability of improving lives across the nation.