How Napping Impacts Your Sleep: Understanding Napping and Insomnia

Blog cover image for 'How Napping Impacts Your Sleep: Understanding Napping and Insomnia' article discussing the effects of napping on insomnia and sleep quality
Have you ever been frustrated that you can't just "take a nap" like everyone else seems to?
My husband is one of those people who can basically nap on command, and enjoy all the benefits of napping.
I, on the other hand, end up tossing and turning or lying perfectly still for an hour but still feeling like I never actually fell asleep.
This was so frustrating when I was struggling with insomnia, one of the most common sleep disorders.
All I could think was:
"This dude got a full night's sleep and he can still conk out just because he wants to... yet, I was awake all night and still can't manage to fall asleep!"
But it turns out my naps were actually more effective than I thought... and they were also making my insomnia symptoms worse.

The Effects of Napping on Insomnia

While naps are always touted for their benefits, they're actually not recommended if you have insomnia.
That's because struggling to fall asleep at night (or waking up and struggling to fall back asleep) is a sign of a low sleep drive.
It's the equivalent of not being hungry at mealtime. Napping depletes your sleep drive even further. It's like you're having a snack or a "napetizer." So come bedtime you're once again not "hungry" enough for a full night's sleep.
And you might be thinking, "But how's that happening if I'm not actually sleeping when I nap?"
Here's where things get really interesting...

Mental Arousal: Why You Feel Like You Didn't Sleep at All

Insomnia is generally caused, at least in part, by heightened mental arousal.
But studies have shown that that heightened arousal continues even while you're sleeping.
So even during sleep, the brain of someone with insomnia is often much more active than a sleeping brain normally would be.
This can make sleep feel a lot like being awake, affecting your sleep quality.
So you're likely getting more sleep than you think you are — even during those naps where you're not sure if you slept at all.

How to Improve Sleep: Should You be Napping or Not?

Here's a good rule of thumb when it comes to napping...
If you can nap during the day and you still sleep well at night, go for it!
BUT if you're someone who often struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep, then the nap may be part of the problem.
Unless you need it for safety reasons, you're probably better off skipping it so you can build up your sleep drive rather than "spoiling your appetite" for a good night's sleep.


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I’m on a mission to help you sleep better with practical, evidence-based solutions. 

As a professional news anchor and correspondent, I saw my own sleep and health deteriorate for years. I tried one standard sleep tip after another. But they either didn’t work, or seemed completely unrealistic — and in some cases both. 

So I used my experience as a journalist and problem solver to research and consult with experts and patients all across sleep science. Together they helped me create actionable fixes that are practical, easy to understand and, most importantly, really work! 


Keeping a sleep diary is often the first thing a sleep specialist will tell you to do and it can be an incredibly valuable tool, whether you’re tackling your sleep problems yourself or seeking professional help.


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