Sleep is as important as your food or workout choices. For athletes especially, not only does sleep make them feel better but it also repairs and regenerates damaged tissue from the day’s workout and builds bone and muscle to be ready for the next. Distance runners especially need that sleep/repair time to make sure that muscles recover from training. Lack of sleep or unsettled sleep affects your mood, personality, functionality, productivity and general well-being. Many athletes and runners diligently track their sleep and believe that it even helps them with setting a new personal best. But if you find yourself snoozing frequently during the day then it could be a sign of future health problems to come.

Studies have claimed that regular day-time napping has been associated with an elevated risk for type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But a 2014 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found napping for an hour or longer each day is associated with a 32-percent spike in mortality risk.

So does that mean that napping could be as dangerous as consuming tobacco or junk food? Michael Grandner, Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, told Runner’s World that napping is not the actual problem but it is a clear symptom of an underlying health condition. “In many cases, people who nap do so because their sleep is poor at night and they can’t maintain wakefulness during the day,” he explains. But if you find yourself in a zombie-mode despite getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night, Gardner says that this could be a be a tell-tale sign for an underlying health condition.

If napping is not your thing, then try a 30-minute afternoon workout instead

If your nap time is more than 60 minutes or longer (and you still wake up craving for more), then that’s a sign that something is not right. With many companies allocating nap-time and sleep pods to their employees, is mid-day napping an entirely bad concept? To this Gardner says that while a prolonged day-time nap could spell trouble, a quick power-nap of 20-30 minutes could infact be good for your work performance.

That’s only if your nap is by choice and you wake up feeling refreshed. If you extend your nap-time for a longer period it sends your body into “deep stages of sleep,” he explains. This will only end up making you feel groggy and craving for some more siesta. Over long naps could also cause your appetite and energy levels to spike up at odd-hours, and also worsen your nighttime struggles with sleep.

While some people are habituated with taking a 20-minute power nap everyday and wake up feeling pumped, there are many who just end up not feeling energetic enough and crave for a pick-me-up like coffee or an energy drink to stay sharp and productive.

While a nap is a healthy swap for an afternoon shot of espresso or energy drinks, it is definitely not a substitute for your insomnia. If you find yourself turning your 20-minute nap into an afternoon siesta, your reliance on naps could be what’s causing the lack of sleep at night. If you are a habituated napper and can handle your work and sleep time effectively, then you should go ahead with the nap rather than a cup of coffee. For those that find that nothing is helping – neither the nap or downing energy drinks – then maybe you should replace them with some midday exercise. Sparing 30 minutes in the afternoon to get a workout is an excellent way to shake off that afternoon gloom, save more time and even up productivity levels.

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