Benefits and Drawbacks of Napping

There are as many opinions on napping as there are hours in the day. Is napping good or bad? How long should you nap? When should you nap? Do kids need naps?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Anne Marie Morse commonly hears about napping. She is a neurologist at Geisinger in Pennsylvania, specializing in child neurology and sleep medicine, and has been practicing for seven years. Although it can be complicated, Dr. Morse gives guidance on the best practices for napping.

The Sleep/Wake Cycle

Sleep patterns change with age. Daytime naps are developmentally normal in childhood. For instance, a one-year-old child relies on napping to foster learning and development. But by the time the child is five years old, they don’t need naps. At this stage, longer nocturnal sleep cycles provide a better environment for learning and recovery. For adults, the ideal is seven to nine hours of sleep a night and 16 to 17 hours awake.

Napping: The Good and the Bad

Infants and young children need to nap to optimize, growth, development, mood, and behavior. Ideally, adults with no sleep disorders shouldn’t need to nap. However, not every day is ideal. A good question to ask yourself is, “Why am I napping?” There are good reasons to take a nap, such as an occasional night of poor sleep, travelling across time zones, or being sick with a cold. However, if you are consistently needing to nap, there may be an unrecognized sleep issue affecting your sleep. Do some digging to determine if you are getting the right duration, timing, and regularity, as well as quality of sleep you need. If you need a nap, timing and duration is important. Naps should be short, 20 to 30 minutes, and early enough in the day so as not to interfere with nighttime sleep. The danger of napping too long, or too late in the day is the inability to fall or stay asleep at night. This can create a vicious cycle of again needing a nap the following day, creating a pattern of interrupted sleep.

Napping Rooms in Athletic Facilities

The nature of an elite athlete’s schedule including travel, late games, and increased energy demand may require napping for optimal performance. Sleep is a critical tool that any athlete can use to have a competitive edge. Although the goal is to have quality nighttime sleep, a nap can be part of a team’s strategy for optimal performance. Napping is a healthier alternative to relying on caffeine or other stimulants. Teams may even have a napping room. The best thing about a napping room is that it takes away the stigma of needing a nap. Prioritizing sleep health should be a team’s expectation rather than a sign of weakness.

Napping and Recovery

Recovery happens when growth hormones are active, which usually occurs during longer sleep periods. Naps are good for restorative energy, but muscle recovery happens with longer sleep at night.


Sleep plays a critical role in learning, reaction time, judgement, and recovery. For otherwise healthy adults with no sleep disorders, short naps can help restore energy after insufficient sleep. However, generally it is better to get solid blocks of sleep and wake cycles. If someone takes frequent naps, they should seek advice from a sleep doctor as there may be other sleep issues


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