Therapy & lifestyle

Naps and sleep disorders

New research is coming out all the time claiming that daytime naps can help improve memory,1 increase alertness,2 and reverse the hormonal effects of a poor night’s sleep.3 But for many people with sleep disorders, naps can do more harm than good. While you should talk with your doctor about your specific sleep schedule, here are our general recommendations for those with certain sleep disorders:

Sleep apnea

Always use CPAP when you sleep. Even if you’re just putting your head down at your desk for a quick power nap, you’re likely experiencing disruptive, harmful apneas if you’re not using CPAP.

Naps make it harder to embrace CPAP. For CPAP beginners especially, it’s important to avoid naps because they reduce your sleep debt. Believe it or not, sleep debt is a good thing to have when you’re adjusting to CPAP treatment because it makes you feel more tired at bedtime. This in turn makes falling asleep easier to do while you’re getting used to your new equipment. The more tired you are, the faster you’ll sleep with CPAP. And the more you sleep with CPAP, the more familiar and second-nature it will become.

Insomnia

A healthy amount of sleep debt also helps people with insomnia fall asleep at night. A daytime nap might just give you the energy you need to stay up long past your desired bedtime, which is precisely what you want to avoid. This is why those on Sleep Restriction Therapy (a non-drug treatment for addressing insomniac symptoms) are “forbidden from taking naps during the daytime.”4

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is the only sleep disorder that naps may help. For people with this condition, a nap is often the key thing enabling them to function normally that day. They can even nap while taking prescription drugs meant to keep them awake.

If you have a sleep disorder, tell us whether and how you nap. If you do, how do you usually feel afterwards?

 


References

  1. Studte S, Bridger E and Mecklinger A. Nap sleep preserves associative but not item memory performance. Neurobiol Learn Mem 2015. 10.1016/j.nlm.2015.02.012 (accessed March 30, 2015).
  2. Milner CE and Cote KA. Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. J Sleep Res 2009;18(2):272–81.
  3. Faraut B et al. Napping reverses the salivary interleukin-6 and urinary norepinephrine changes induced by sleep restriction. J Clin Endocrinol Metabol 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-2566 (accessed March 30, 2015).
  4. Sleepdex. Sleep restriction therapy. http://www.sleepdex.org/restriction.htm (accessed April 7, 2015).

 

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