Is Daytime Napping Your Habit? Genetics Could Explain Why

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Is Daytime Napping Your Habit? Genetics Could Explain Why

Date of Content: May 5, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Overview

Daytime napping, or taking short naps, normally during the midday to recharge for energy, is a common habit among many individuals, cutting across various cultures and age groups. 

Research shows that these short sleep intervals can provide numerous benefits, such as improved mood, increased alertness, and better cognitive performance. While napping habits often stem from lifestyle and cultural norms, emerging scientific evidence suggests that genetics might significantly influence a person’s urge to nap during the day.

Understanding the science behind daytime napping sheds light on sleeping behavior and opens up potential avenues for improving overall health and well-being by aligning sleeping habits with genetic predispositions.

What is Napping?

Napping is a short period of sleep taken during the day, distinct from the longer and more continuous sleep during night time. It typically takes 10 to 30 minutes of power nap but can extend to an hour or more. Scientifically, napping is known to provide several benefits, such as boosting mood, enhancing alertness, and improving cognitive performance.

The body’s natural circadian rhythms, which dictate our sleep-wake cycle, often create a dip in alertness in the early afternoon, commonly referred to as the “post-lunch dip.” This natural lull can make people feel drowsy and in need of a nap. Napping at this time can be particularly effective if aligned with the body’s biological clock.

Why Do Many People Like Napping?

Many people enjoy napping because it offers a quick and effective way to recharge their energy and improve their mood. Scientifically, napping provides several benefits that can explain its appeal. Short naps can significantly enhance alertness and cognitive performance. This boost in mental clarity and focus is especially helpful in combating the afternoon slump, a period of decreased alertness that aligns with our natural circadian rhythms.

Moreover, napping can improve mood by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. This is because a nap can help lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. A brief nap can also increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

Is The Need For A Daytime Nap Caused By Genetic?

Daytime napping is a common behavior that can be inherited, but its genetic basis and impact on health are not well understood. A 2021 study examined the genetic data of 452,633 people from the UK Biobank and identified 123 genetic loci linked to daytime napping. These findings were validated in another study with 541,333 participants from the 23andMe research cohort.

Some key genes were identified in the study. An intronic variant rs351776 in the PNOC gene, with a C allele frequency of 0.55 was linked to frequent napping and daytime sleepiness. Another missense variant rs12140153; G1543V in the PATJ gene, with a G allele frequency of 0.90 showed a robust association with daytime sleepiness and chronotype among previously made studies. Both variations in the PNOC and PATJ genes have also suggested a connection between the urge for daytime napping and obesity.

The genetic signals matched with data on daytime inactivity measured by accelerometers and identified more loci (HCRTR2, PATJ, RP11-6N13.1, etc.) that were also related to other sleep traits. The study identified distinct genetic clusters that promote napping, each with different impacts on heart and metabolic health.

Using Mendelian randomization, the study suggested that more frequent napping could potentially cause higher blood pressure and increased waist circumference. This research sheds light on the genetic factors influencing daytime napping and its possible health consequences, emphasizing the complex relationship between our genes and sleep behaviors.

What Other Factors That Can Affect Daytime Napping?

Daytime napping is influenced by various environmental factors that can either promote or hinder the ability to nap effectively. Understanding these factors can help individuals create optimal environments for napping, thereby enhancing the potential health benefits. Here’s a detailed look at the key environmental factors that affect daytime napping:

  1. Light Exposure: Light plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythms, which govern our sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to natural light during the day helps maintain alertness, while dim lighting can signal the body to prepare for sleep. Research indicates that a dark or dimly lit environment can significantly enhance the ability to fall asleep during the day. Conversely, bright light, especially blue light from screens, can inhibit the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to nap.
  2. Noise Levels: The level of ambient noise can significantly impact the ability to nap. Studies have shown that a quiet environment promotes better sleep quality and helps individuals fall asleep faster. Noise pollution, such as traffic, construction, or loud conversations, can disrupt sleep and reduce the restorative benefits of a nap. Using earplugs or white noise machines can help mitigate these disturbances.
  3. Temperature: The ambient temperature of the napping environment is critical. According to research, a cooler room temperature, around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius), is ideal for sleep. A too-warm or too-cold environment can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep. Adjusting the room temperature to create a comfortable, cool environment can enhance the quality of daytime naps.
  4. Comfort and Bedding: The physical comfort of the napping space significantly affects sleep quality. A comfortable mattress, supportive pillows, and appropriate bedding can make a big difference. Studies have found that uncomfortable bedding can lead to poor sleep quality and increased body aches, reducing the benefits of a nap. Investing in quality bedding and ensuring a comfortable sleep position can improve nap effectiveness.
  5. Timing of Naps: The timing of a nap concerning the body’s natural circadian rhythms is crucial. Napping too late in the afternoon or evening can interfere with nighttime sleep, leading to insomnia or poor sleep quality. The ideal time for a nap is usually mid-afternoon, between 1:00 and 3:00 PM, when there is a natural dip in alertness. This timing aligns with the body’s biological clock and maximizes the restorative benefits of napping.
  6. Meal Timing and Content: Eating a large, heavy meal right before a nap can cause discomfort and make it difficult to fall asleep. On the other hand, being too hungry can also be distracting. Research suggests that having a light snack, such as a piece of fruit or some nuts, before napping can help maintain comfort and promote sleep. Additionally, avoiding caffeine and heavy, rich foods before a nap can prevent gastrointestinal discomfort and sleep disruptions.
  7. Stress and Mental State: The mental state and stress levels of an individual can greatly affect the ability to nap. High stress and anxiety can lead to increased cortisol levels, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep. Practices such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, or a short meditation session before napping can help reduce stress and create a more conducive environment for sleep.
  8. Use of Technology: The use of electronic devices before napping can interfere with the ability to fall asleep. The blue light emitted by screens can suppress melatonin production and disrupt circadian rhythms. It’s advisable to avoid screens at least 30 minutes before napping and instead engage in calming activities such as reading a book or listening to soothing music.

Understanding and optimizing these environmental factors can significantly improve the effectiveness of daytime napping. Individuals can enhance their overall health and well-being by aligning napping habits with genetic predispositions and environmental conditions.

How Long Should Daytime Naps Last?

The ideal length for daytime naps depends on the desired benefits and individual needs. Short naps, lasting 10 to 20 minutes, are often considered the most effective for a quick boost in alertness and energy. This duration allows the napper to enter the lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep without progressing into deeper sleep stages, which can prevent grogginess upon waking.

For those who have more time, a 60-minute nap can also be beneficial. This duration allows for a full sleep cycle, including light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A complete sleep cycle can enhance creativity, procedural memory, and emotional resilience. However, longer naps can be impractical for many due to time constraints and the potential to disrupt nighttime sleep.

Can Daytime Napping Have Negative Effects?

While daytime napping can offer numerous benefits, it can also have negative effects if not managed properly. One potential downside is sleep inertia, the groggy feeling that can occur after waking from a nap, especially if it extends beyond 20 to 30 minutes. This occurs when an individual enters deeper stages of sleep and wakes up before completing a full sleep cycle, leading to temporarily impaired cognitive and motor functions.

Another issue is that long or poorly timed naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. Napping too late in the afternoon or for too long can make it harder to fall asleep at night, potentially leading to insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns. This can create a cycle of poor nighttime sleep and increased reliance on daytime napping.

There is also evidence suggesting that frequent, prolonged daytime napping might be linked to certain health conditions. For instance, a study found an association between long daytime naps and an increased risk of cardiovascular issues in some individuals. This suggests that underlying health problems, rather than napping itself, might drive the need for extended daytime sleep.

Benefits of Daytime Napping

Daytime napping can offer a range of benefits, supported by scientific research, that enhance both physical and mental well-being. Here are some key benefits:

Improved Alertness and Performance

One of the most immediate benefits of a short daytime nap, lasting 10 to 20 minutes, is improved alertness and performance. Research shows that short naps can significantly boost alertness and reduce feelings of fatigue. This can lead to better concentration, quicker reaction times, and enhanced overall performance in tasks requiring attention and precision.

Enhanced Memory and Learning

Napping can also positively impact memory and learning. A study found that a 90-minute nap can enhance learning capacity by clearing the brain’s short-term memory storage, making room for new information. This process, known as memory consolidation, is crucial for converting short-term memories into long-term ones. Both declarative memory (facts and information) and procedural memory (how to perform tasks) can benefit from a midday nap.

Reduced Stress and Improved Mood

Napping has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood. A nap can lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, thus helping the body relax and recover. Additionally, napping increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. This can lead to an overall improvement in mood and emotional stability.

Cardiovascular Benefits

There are potential cardiovascular benefits associated with napping. A study found that occasional napping is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes. This may be due to the stress-reducing effects of naps and their ability to lower blood pressure.

Increased Creativity

Naps can also boost creativity. Research suggests that the brain processes information and solves problems differently during sleep, particularly in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. A full sleep cycle, including REM sleep, during a 90-minute nap, can foster creative thinking and problem-solving by allowing the brain to make new and unexpected connections between ideas.

Enhanced Physical Performance

For athletes and physically active individuals, napping can enhance physical performance. Studies have shown that naps can improve reaction times, increase stamina, and reduce the perception of effort during physical activities. This is particularly beneficial for those engaging in intensive training or competition.

Compensation for Sleep Deprivation

Napping can be an effective way to compensate for a poor night’s sleep. While it cannot completely replace the benefits of a full night’s rest, a nap can help alleviate some of the cognitive deficits associated with sleep deprivation. This makes napping a valuable tool for shift workers, new parents, and anyone experiencing irregular sleep patterns.

Boosted Immune Function

Napping can help boost immune function. Sleep, including naps, enhances the body’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses. A study found that naps can restore immune function compromised by sleep deprivation, highlighting the importance of sleep for maintaining overall health.

Mental Health Benefits

Finally, napping can have positive effects on mental health. Regular, adequate sleep, including naps, is associated with lower risks of depression and anxiety. By providing a break and a chance to reset, naps can help manage stress and contribute to better mental health.

In summary, daytime napping offers a wide array of benefits, from improved alertness and memory to enhanced physical and mental health. By understanding the scientific basis and tailoring naps to individual genetic predispositions, people can optimize their daily routines to reap these benefits.

LifeDNA’s Daytime Napping Trait Report

Discover the power of personalized health with LifeDNA’s Daytime Napping Trait Report, part of our comprehensive Sleep Report. Have you ever wondered why some days you need a nap to recharge while others you’re wide awake all day? LifeDNA’s scientifically backed reports help you understand your body’s unique needs, including your predisposition to daytime napping, based on your genetic profile.

As we age, our sleep patterns and needs evolve. With LifeDNA’s Sleep Report, you gain insights into how your genetics influence your sleep habits and how you can optimize your routine for better health and well-being. Our Daytime Napping Trait Report dives deep into your genetic markers, offering tailored advice on the ideal nap duration and timing for you.

LifeDNA offers more than just insights into your sleep. Our extensive Wellness Report and Nutrition Report includes trait reports covering various aspects of health and lifestyle. From the Vitamins and Supplements Report, which helps you understand your nutritional needs, to the Fitness Report which tailors workout recommendations based on your genes, our reports provide a holistic approach to wellness.

Explore our Personality and Cognition Report to uncover how your genetics shape your behavior and mental performance or dive into the Skincare Report for personalized skincare advice. For those interested in aging gracefully, our premium Age-Related Report and Methylation Genes Report offer in-depth insights into how your body changes over time and how to maintain your vitality.

Start your wellness journey with LifeDNA today. Uncover the secrets hidden in your DNA and make informed decisions to improve your health and lifestyle. Avail of LifeDNA’s comprehensive plans and take the first step towards a healthier, more personalized approach to your well-being. Discover how understanding your genetics can unlock a better you.

References

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/napping
  3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/light-and-sleep
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697581/
  5. https://www.cnet.com/health/sleep/nap-without-ruining-your-sleep-at-night/
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-i-nap
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/work-hour-training-for-nurses/longhours/mod7/03.html#:~:text=Sleep%20inertia%20is%20a%20temporary,reasoning%2C%20remembering%2C%20and%20learning.
  9. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-of-napping
  10. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/can-a-nap-boost-brain-health#:~:text=Scientists%20found%20that%20people%20who,another%20sign%20of%20good%20cognition.
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/378268051_The_Science_and_Timing_of_Power_Naps_Investigating_the_Cognitive_and_Physical_Benefits_of_Brief_Daytime_Sleep#:~:text=Research%20indicates%20that%20even%20brief,pm%2C%20showing%20the%20greatest%20improvement.
  12. https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/once-or-twice-weekly-daytime-nap-linked-to-lower-heart-attack-stroke-risk/
  13. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/13/6/1414
  14. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-sleep-affects-immunity

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.