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Napping and Sleep Deprivation: When You Absolutely, Positively Have to Have It

By Sara Butler

Napping and Sleep Deprivation: When You Absolutely, Positively Have to Have It

Sleeping is a human need. You need it as much as you need to eat and breathe. If you don’t get enough of it, then your overall health and wellness will suffer. The problem is, a lot of people don’t get enough sleep -- almost 20 percent of Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

If you’re someone who finds quality sleep hard to come by, then you can use a well-timed nap to help bolster the amount of sleep you can get each day. But don’t just dive into your nap pod and go for it -- there’s a lot to know about different types of naps, sleep patterns, and how to maximize the effectiveness of a nap in your day. There are even some people who should avoid naps altogether. Let The Joint Chiropractic help you understand more about nap time and improve your quality of life in the process.

What Are Sleep Cycles?

You may think when you fall asleep you just conk out for the day and that’s all she wrote, but the truth is that your brain is a busy bee when you’re floating through dreamland. During your nightly sleep session, your body works to restore itself, your brain works on doing important things like consolidating memories, and you get some rest. All of this is done through four distinct stages of sleep that are vital to a good night’s sleep. These are the sleep stages, or cycles.

Stage 1 - This is called non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In this stage, you are in transition from being awake to drifting off to sleep. Your breathing slows, as do your heart and eye movements. You relax and your brain activity starts to slow. It’s easy to rouse a person from this stage and fully wake them up, but if they’re not interrupted, then this stage lasts only about 10 minutes.

Stage 2 - During this stage, you're shifting into deeper sleep in preparation for the next stage of sleep. Your body temperature drops, your brain waves slow, and your muscles become fully relaxed. Half of your night is spent in this stage during your sleep cycles, with this stage lasting anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes in each sleep cycle.

Stage 3 - Also called deep sleep, this is the stage your body needs to feel refreshed when you wake up. You will have more difficulty waking up in this stage because your body is busy restoring itself. You recover physically during this stage and your brain “reboots” to prepare itself for the oncoming day.

Stage 4 - You’ve likely heard of this stage, referred to as REM sleep. It gets this name because, well, your eyes move at a rapid pace. This is because your brain activity kicks into high gear in this stage, so much so that it’s almost as active as it is when you’re awake. During this stage, your muscles are paralyzed and your brain is working to consolidate memories and working through your thoughts and emotions of the day. New motor skills are processed in this stage as well, but this stage only lasts a few minutes.

Your brain goes through all of these four sleep stages to complete one sleep cycle. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes but could last up to 120 minutes.

What Are Common Causes of Sleep Deprivation?

When you don’t get enough sleep, you can suffer from sleep deprivation. But what causes it? There are several common causes, including:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Work
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Poor sleep hygiene

Some of these things are in your control, such as staying up too late to watch your favorite show or staying out too late with friends. Of course, some things -- such as obligations to family or work -- can interfere with sleep, as can sleep problems such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Even some medications can cause problems with sleep, as can having a poor sleep routine.

How Much Sleep is Necessary According to Age Group?

How much sleep do you need? Well, that depends on how old you are.

Each age group has different sleep needs, with the amount of optimal sleep required going down the older you get.

Newborns need the most sleep at about 14 to 17 hours per day. Infants from four months to one year of age need about 16 hours and toddlers between ages 1 and 2 need about 14 hours each day to stay healthy.

Preschool-aged kids up to 5 need about 13 hours and school-age kids up to 12 require anywhere from nine to 12 hours. Teens need up to 10 hours and adults up to age 60 need about seven hours per night. Once you hit 60, you may find yourself needing a little more, up to nine hours per night.

What Kinds of Naps Are There?

If you find you’re not getting enough sleep at night, then naps may be what you need! You may think that a nap is just a nap, but in reality, there are several different types of naps. They are:

Power naps - A power nap is just what it sounds like, a quick nap usually not longer than 30 minutes that helps you to feel rejuvenated.

Coffee naps - Thinking of coffee may not make you think of sleep, but a coffee nap can be a strategic mood lifter to get you through the day. To take a coffee nap, you drink a cup of coffee right before you plan to lie down for a very short 20-minute nap. This allows you to rest before the caffeine kicks in, then you wake up ready to go.

Prophylactic naps - If you know you’re going to suffer from sleep deprivation due to work commitments or other things that will interrupt your sleep, then a prophylactic nap is just what you need. This is a nap you take for two to three hours in anticipation of being sleep deprived.

Replacement naps - If you had some unanticipated sleep loss the night before, then a replacement nap may be just what you need. As a 90-minute nap, it allows you to go through an entire sleep cycle to help you feel more alert and rested.

Does Napping Interfere with Nighttime Sleep?

If done right, a nap won’t interfere with your regular night’s sleep. Just make sure not to do it too close to bedtime and keep yourself on a strict schedule. Taking a nap that is too long may make you feel more tired and grumpy.

Anyone who has problems falling asleep and staying asleep due to a sleep disorder may not benefit from a nap. If you struggle with this, then talk to a medical professional to make sure there are no serious underlying problems keeping you from a good night’s rest.

Napping can be a great tool in your arsenal, boosting your productivity, health, and well-being. Now that you know more about sleep and different types of naps, put this knowledge to good use. Go forth and slumber!

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