Health Benefits of Napping

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH
“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.” — Carrie Snow

With the hectic pace of day-to-day life, many people don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults typically need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night in order to function at their best. Getting a few less hours for even a few nights in a row can have the same effect as staying awake for 24 hours straight. And, over time, chronic sleep debt can contribute to fatigue, increased stress levels, reduced attention span, and declined cognitive performance.

One way to combat the effects of sleep deprivation—and repay some sleep debt—is to incorporate daytime napping into your schedule. The length of the nap and type of sleep you get during that nap help determine its potential health benefits. The table below identifies these benefits.

Nap Duration  and  Potential Health Benefits

10-20 minutes:
 Reduces sleepiness; improves cognitive performance; increases alertness, attention, and energy levels; improves mood; improves motor performance; reduces stress levels

20-30 minutes:
Enhances creativity; sharpens memory

30-60 minutes:
Sharpens decision-making skills, including memorization and recall; improves memory preservation

60-90 minutes:
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is critical for problem solving; helps make new connections in the brain; enhances creativity; reduces negative reactivity; promotes happiness

  The following is a list of tips and tricks to help you make the most of naptime:

Choose a dark, quiet, comfortable place where you can relax. Try to limit the amount of noise and light in the room, and make sure the temperature is comfortable. Choose a time that works for you, and aim to nap at that time each day to establish a routine. You may find that restricting your naps to early afternoon (between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, or an hour or two after lunch) is less likely to interfere with your nighttime sleep patterns. Set an alarm on your cell phone, watch, or computer so you don’t sleep for too long. If you’re napping at the office, try closing your door and hanging a sign that says, “will return in 20 minutes.” Alternatives to this are napping in your car or on an outdoor bench.

Wherever you nap, bring along something that you associate with sleep. Some ideas include a sleep mask, neck pillow, relaxing playlist and headphones, cozy blanket, warm socks, and lavender essential oil to dab on your pulse points.

Keep in mind that longer naps may be accompanied by sleep inertia, or a period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep. Give yourself time to wake fully before returning to any activity that requires a quick or sharp response. 

Your Partner In Health!
Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

By: Frances Meredith, M.D.

“Sleep is the best meditation”    – Dalai Lama
We all know sleep is precious. The world is a wonderful place when we awaken after a night of good sleep. Lack of sleep not only leaves us with lack of energy for our day, but also puts us at risk for many health issues from flares of autoimmunity to Alzheimer’s disease.
 
Could you have this “silent” sleep problem unrecognized by many doctors?
All of us are familiar with obstructive sleep apnea. A less known condition often referred to as sleep apnea’s “silent sister”, also can cause the same daytime fatigue and can contribute to many health issues as well. This condition is known as Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome or UARS and can be due to a naturally narrowed airway (often in someone thin or ideal body weight), a tongue falling back into the airway, or loose throat tissue. This causes “micro awakenings” occurring throughout the night, often without snoring or the sufferer even realizing it. This causes fatigue, increased stress responses often with sensitivity to emotional triggers, light, sound, and/or weather changes. It can also cause low testosterone, tension headaches, anxiety and depression.
 
Many doctors have yet to hear about UARS. The first step is to suspect it with daytime fatigue or any of the symptoms listed above, and bring it up with a provider familiar with the condition. Testing can then be ordered, such as a home sleep apnea test and a peek in your mouth and airway as an initial evaluation. An in-lab study is more sensitive, however a home study can often pick it up and is certainly much easier especially during COVID times. Treatment can then be designed including a dental appliance or CPAP which has gotten so much more user friendly in the last several years.
 
If ongoing daytime fatigue is an issue for you call 919-999-0831 to schedule an initial visit or bring it up with your provider at CTW. Optimizing sleep is just one of the many factors that a Functional Medicine provider will investigate that supports optimal energy and brain function, but without it, life just doesn’t look as sweet.
 
Your Partner in Health!
 Frances Meredith, MD

Ten Tips To get A Better Night’s Sleep

By: Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Most of us know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep.  Seven to nine hours of quality restorative sleep is ideal.  But this type of sleep sometimes eludes us.  Here are ten tips to help with more and better sleep.

  • Preparing for the next day can alleviate some of the stress that keeps us up at night.  You can get a jumpstart on the next day by packing your lunch, picking out an outfit, bathing at night instead of the morning and jotting down a to-do list.
  • Shut down your devices at least 2 hours before bed.  If you must be on your phone or computer try wearing blue blocker glasses that keep the blue light out of your eyes.  This blue light that is emitted from our electronics suppresses the release of melatonin which is the hormone that makes us sleepy.
  • Try a supplement to help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.  Some examples:  magnesium, melatonin, L-Theanine, passionflower, valerian and CBD oil. Start with the minimum dose and work up as some people are more sensitive to these supplements than others.  Certain calming essential oils such as lavender, chamomile and eucalyptus are also very beneficial to quality sleep.
  • Create a bedtime routine.  Try to do roughly the same thing every night before bed to help signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.  Relaxing ideas are meditation, a hot shower or bath, light stretches, journaling and reading a good book that’s not too thought provoking. 
  • Get some exercise during the day.  Any type of movement helps you sleep better at night.  Exercising outside is particularly helpful due to sunlight exposure. Be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime as this can raise your cortisol levels and make it harder to fall asleep. 
  • Try some 4-7-8 breathing after you get into bed and turn off the light.   Place the tip of your tongue on the back of your front teeth, breathe in through your nose to a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of 8. Repeat this 4 times.  This breathwork is fantastic for calming your nervous system.
  • As much as possible go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.  This will help train your biological clock.  Our bodies crave a consistent schedule when it comes to sleep.
  • Finish all eating 3 hours prior to going to sleep.  This allows digestion to occur while you are still awake and prevents insomnia and heartburn. 
  • In the winter try sleeping with a hot water bottle instead of an electric blanket.  It will keep you warm and help you to fall asleep more quickly.
  • Make the last thing you do before falling asleep a list of 5 “wins” for the day.  Five things that happened that felt good or five accomplishments.  When you make this the last thing you focus on you sleep more soundly and wake up in a better frame of mind.