Expert Advice

Do naps help or hinder sleep?

Do naps help or hinder sleep?
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If you have insomnia, naps can hinder nighttime sleep because staying awake throughout the day increases your body's desire to sleep at night. If you're a good sleeper but are sleep-deprived due to other circumstances, naps can help you catch up.

Insomnia
To combat mild insomnia, shorten your nighttime sleep by going to bed 30 to 60 minutes later than usual but waking up at your normal time. You'll feel tired initially, but if you stick to this schedule for three weeks, you'll build up a healthy sleep debt, which will help you fall asleep faster and spend more time in the deepest stages of sleep. (If your insomnia is caused by depression, sleep apnea, or restless legs syndrome, see your doctor. It's more appropriate to treat the underlying problem rather than restrict your sleep time.) 

Sleep deprived
To make up for a temporary sleep deficit, nap for a half hour; that will help you get the rest you need. Just be sure to nap before 2 p.m., so it doesn't interfere with your ability to sleep soundly that evening, and try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

—Vishesh Kapur, M.D., M.P.H., director of the University of Washington Sleep Disorders Center in Seattle

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