Napping does not replace quality sleep

Brianne Carlon

Credit: Andrew popik

Students who are trying to juggle a full-time school schedule, study time, extracurricular activities, a job, relationships and a possible social life may not have the luxury of getting the doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep a night.

Those who do not get a full night of sleep resort to the next best thing — napping.

“We are so on the go,” said Christina Tucholski, sophomore fashion design major. “The minute we get downtime, we just want to sleep.”

However, by staying up late, waking up early and taking lots of naps, more harm than good is being done to students’ bodies. A lack of quality sleep will weaken the body physically and mentally, said family physician Thomas Albani.

“If there are no other options, taking a nap is better than nothing at all,” Albani said. “But you need to sleep long enough to get some REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.”

REM is the stage of sleep when dreaming takes place.

“It takes at least 45 minutes to fall into REM sleep,” Albani said.

The idea of 10 minute power naps may seem reassuring, Albani said. However, 10 minutes of sleep will not help replenish the body.

“While it may give the brain a break, it doesn’t really accomplish much since there is no REM sleep involved,” he said.

A 10 minute nap is almost self-defeating, Tucholski said.

“It is like a tease if I do not have at least two hours to nap,” she said. “If I do not have enough time then I do not allow myself to nap. It is more beneficial that way.”

According to Brown University Health Services, “Sleep deprived students perform significantly worse than students who regularly get a good night’s sleep.”

REM, sleep that occurs later in the night, is important for comprehending new information and is necessary for learning.

“Sleep deprived students will be sluggish and will not do well throughout the day,” Albani said.

Tucholski naps at least once or twice a week. She is usually trying to recover from a night of little or no sleep, she said.

“If I do not get a complete night of sleep, I do not get that well rested feeling like Saturday morning,” she said. “Napping is a quick fix, like another cup of coffee.”

However, napping can become a bad thing very quickly, especially when students are skipping class to sleep, Tucholski said.

“I stayed up all night one time last semester working on a presentation and finally decided to lay down around six,” she said. “But my class was at 7:45 a.m., and I slept through my alarm and my presentation.”

“An 18-year-old or a 22-year-old may be able to bounce back from an all-nighter, but if you do it often, it lowers the body’s resistance to infections,” Albani said.

Sleep deprivation and all-nighters interrupt the natural sleep pattern creating a sleep debt. Frisca Yan-Go, medical director of the UCLA Sleep Disorder Center at Santa Monica Hospital, favors power naps.

“The power nap is like paying back a debt — just like you owe an American Express card, as you pay it back over time, bit by bit, it will get better,” she said in a WebMD article.

Sometimes, students do not even plan naps.

“You just get to the point where you are so exhausted you cannot even keep your eyes open,” Tucholski said. “I usually fall asleep watching television.”

Practicing good sleep habits, including occasional naps, will not only improve sleeping patterns, but also enhance health, moods and possibly even grades, Albani said.

If students are have difficulty sleeping, visit the Sleep Disorders Health Center at

Contact Student Life Reporter Brianne Carlon at [email protected].