March 14 is national napping day. When we first heard this news we were thrilled. I would consider myself an avid napper, so a national holiday dedicated to one of the best activities? I’m in!
That was until I connected with Carla Jungquist, a Nurse Practitioner at Thompson Health Sleep Disorders Center. She answered my questions about napping and sleep in general.
She is more than equipped to answer any questions on sleep, as she has been working at Thompson Health Sleep Disorders Center for about 12 years now. She isn’t new to the Finger Lakes region either, as she has been living around here since 2005.
In addition to her 12 years working in sleep at Thompson, she also has some other impressive credentials. Before working at Thompson she “worked in the University of Rochester Sleep and Neurophysiology Research Lab as well as a Nurse Practitioner at the UR Anesthesia Pain Clinic. I became interested in sleep as all my patients with pain had difficulty sleeping. Working with my research mentor Dr. Michael Perlis, at the UR Sleep Research Lab, I learned all about sleep while I performed physicals on his research participants.”
Jungquist is also a full-time faculty member at the University of Buffalo School of Nursing and Program Coordinator for their Adult Gerontology DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program.
“I have a research program that involves the intersection of sleep and pain as well as the effects of opioid medications on sleep disordered breathing. My position at the Thompson Health Sleep Disorders Center involves assessing, diagnosing and treating all types of sleep disorders. I engage my patients, when needed, in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). My research team wrote and published a treatment manual for CBT-I that has been translated into at least 5 languages,” Jungquist explained.
Everyone knows that babies nap, but what about adults? Can adults benefit from napping? And if so how long do we nap? If I nap during the day will it disrupt my normal nighttime sleep schedule?
Jungquist added that “napping is a tricky topic.” Elderly people can benefit from naps or a short rest for about 30 minutes or less. The best time to nap would be in the early afternoon. The time to rest can help improve cognition function and “ability to stay awake until a normal bedtime.”
“For most people, napping steals away from the depth of nighttime sleep. Naps should be avoided for most,” she continued.
This news is tragic, I know. Who doesn’t love a good nap? As disappointing as it is, it makes sense. Napping during the day means you won’t have as deep of a sleep at night.
The need for naps could be the sign of a disorder. If you have daytime sleepiness, consider getting it diagnosed and treated. If you have difficulty staying awake during the day the day drowsy driving and unsafe work conditions could occur.
I also asked Jungquist if everyone needs to sleep 8 hours a night. “There is significant research that shows that lack of sufficient seep can decrease work performance, immune function, cognitive performance, and result in unsafe situations such as falling to sleep while driving,” she explained. Not everyone requires a full 8 hours though. “The healthy range of sleep requirement is 6.5 hours to 8 hours.”
We also wondered what to do if you have trouble falling asleep at night. “Difficulty falling to sleep is often caused by people engaging in stimulating activities or worries just before sleep. It is always important to provide yourself with relaxation and wind-down time for 1 to 2 hours before trying to sleep,” she said.
Jungquist said that there are two main issues involved when getting your body ready to sleep: circadian rhythm and decreased cortisol levels. “You should always go to bed around the same time every night. This will allow your melatonin levels to standardize a time to increase, thus prepare your body for sleep. Additionally, when melatonin starts increasing to prepare your body for sleep, your cortisol levels must decrease. That is why it is important to have a relaxation and wind-down time 1 to 2 hours before sleep. The other issue is the longer you are awake, the more likely you will be able to fall into sleep.”
She said that generally, you should get out of bed within 8 to 9 hours of going to bed and not nap during the day. That is of course you aren’t elderly or sick.
You’ll probably get your best sleep in a quiet, dark, and cool place free of electronic devices.
I also asked if diet and exercise affect sleep. The easy answer is yes, specifically diet. You should avoid eating a large meal 2-3 hours before bed. Avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bed is also recommended.
Jungquist also added that “exercise and light exposure are the best avenues for improving depth and quality of sleep.” You also shouldn’t exercise within 2 hours of your bedtime as “exercise increase cortisol levels that may interfere with ability to get to sleep.”
To make sure that you sleep well every night, you should establish a routine. “Sleep is vital to good health. Sleep functions to improve immune function, regulate mood, improve memory and ability to recall, and to restore muscles for the following day’s work,” she continued.
If you are having sleep troubles, connect with your primary care provider to talk about possible sleep disorders or a referral to a sleep center if it’s needed. You can always get a good idea about your sleep by asking your bed partner or wearing a device that tracks your sleep movement.
So maybe skip out on national napping day this year if you’re a healthy adult looking to regulate your sleep schedule.