I think I speak for many of us when I say that naps are becoming a key portion to college survival. Personally, I have always been bad at naps because they always kept me up all night, leaving me to regret the decision later. But I will say that I tend to nap more frequently now that I’m in college. It’s not much but it’s more than usual. I was researching why I am so bad at napping, when I came across a Smithsonian article about naps hiding some underlying medical problems, which got me reading.
I’ll start off by saying that it isn’t the naps that are bad for our health. In fact, many studies have shown that naps are good for our bodies and give us that extra boost of energy during the day. But it’s the health concerns that cause us to nap that are the problem. People may choose to nap on a daily basis thinking nothing of it, just that they are tired or stressed and a nap will ease the pain. But, there could be problems causing fatigue and leading them to nap.
Cambridge University found that those who take naps during the day that last an hour or longer may die at younger ages than those who skip naps. They add that smaller naps of about 30 minutes or so were not associated with any health problems and did indeed add that extra energy boost.
The researchers chose an observational study route by following 16,000 British men and women ages 40-79 over 13 years. During this time, researchers questioned napping habits and put them into three different groups: people who napped for less than an hour a day; people who napped for more than an hour a day, and people who did not nap at all. Controlled factors included gender, socioeconomic status, alcohol intake, and mental illness.
Through the study they found that those who napped for an hour or longer were 32% more likely to have died than those who didn’t nap at all. Death causes varied but included heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illness. Essentially, researchers couldn’t find an exact link between long naps and death risk, but they concluded that extended daytime fatigue could be because of hidden heath issues.
And if you’re struggling to decide whether or not to take a nap, Time looked a little bit deeper into the issue. Dr. Sara Mednick said to ask yourself if you really NEED the nap and why you are taking it. One of the researchers on the Cambridge study agrees, saying that this might help combat any of those underlying issues.
The Cambridge study was very large indeed. It looked at a wide variety of people and overall, was well conducted. However, because this was a British study, there could be differences when it comes to Americans and nap patterns. In addition, since they have not been able to put their finger on a definite link between the two, there isn’t sufficient evidence to keep people from napping. And because we are not in the age range studied (40-79) I think naps will be just fine for us, for now.