Friday, September 9, 2011

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Napping (For YOU, not your baby!) Part 2.

By Jennifer Goldbronn, MAS, RD

Last time, we shared the pros and cons of napping for sleep deprived parents. In this post, we’ll share the realities of fitting a nap into your schedule and some tips to get the most out of your naps.

The Reality of Napping

In a study of napping patterns of new mothers, opportunity was significantly related to whether or not the mothers took naps. Moms who had more children and/or worked more took fewer naps (obviously!)(Cottrell 2002) Yes, it’s hard to find time to nap, and yes, you have a thousand other things to do while your child is sleeping. However, incorporating a short nap into your day may drastically improve your ability to function when your nighttime sleep is fragmented. Involve your support people in caring for your other children or taking over a few of your chores so that you have opportunities to rest or nap, especially in your baby’s first 6 weeks, or whenever your baby’s sleep patterns are especially challenging for you. If you can’t fall asleep, even resting for a short period can help you feel better. One study found that 1 hour of resting, even without sleep, improved mood (Note: this study did not include people who were recently sleep deprived). (Daiss et al.1986)

Tips for Napping

To get the most out of a "power nap," follow these tips paraphrased from sleep expert Sara C. Mednick, PhD: assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

• Keep a regular nap schedule. The best time to nap for most people is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

• Don’t sleep too long. If you sleep longer than 30 minutes, you might wake up groggy.

• Try to sleep in a dark place. If you block out light by darkening the room or wearing an eye mask, you will fall asleep faster.

• Use a blanket to stay warm. Your body temperature will drop as you sleep and you don't want to lose precious nap time because you start to get cold!

As much as you may think that napping is impossible, sleep deprivation is not something to take lightly. Ask your partner to trade off with you; one of you can take a nap while the other watches the baby. Even 30 or 40 minutes of nap time can make a big difference while your baby is still young.


Cottrell L, Hildebrandt Karraker K. Correlates of nap taking in mothers of young infants. J. Sleep Res. 2002; 11: 209–212.

Milner CE, Cote KA. Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research. 2009;18 (2):272–281.

Montgomery-Downs HE, Insana SP, Clegg-Kraynok MM, et al. Normative longitudinal maternal sleep: the first 4 postpartum months. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010;203:465.e1-7.

Tietzel, A. J. and Lack, L. C. The short-term benefits of brief and long naps following nocturnal sleep restriction. Sleep. 2001; 24: 293–300.

Lumley M, Roehrs T, Zorick F, Lamphere J, Roth T. The alerting effects of naps in sleep-deprived subjects. Psychophysiology. 1986; 23: 403–408.

Daiss, S. R., Bertelson, A. D. and Benjamin, L. T. Napping versus resting: effects on performance and mood. Psychophysiology. 1986;23: 82–88.


  1. I get a bit enraged whenever people tell me to "nap when the baby naps." I always try to nap, but my 6 month old baby has always been a catnapper. He sleeps for 5-10 minutes and wakes up happy and alert. I'm lucky if I can even get him to "nap" twice a day. I always go through our routine straight away as soon as I see tired signs, and our home is quiet, he's comfortable and so on. I can't force a baby who's not sleepy or tired to nap. Does it matter if he's happy despite what baby sleep theories say about how often and long a baby should nap in a day? It's a lot more exhausting if I really try to get him to nap get rewarded with a catnap or none at all.

  2. We have a saying at the center "if it's not broken, don't fix it." It sounds like you and your baby have worked things out. We hope you get some sleep at night.