Veterinary professionals need more naps!

dvm360dvm360 December 2019
Volume 50
Issue 12

I would have never dreamed of a daytime sleep habit, but doctors orders made me a believer.

dog sleeping in hammock

Eddie Dean/

Napping is not a waste of time. Give it a try.

Remember when you were a kid and your folks had to tell you to take a nap? It was a battle to see who'd give up first. Naps were almost a form of punishment. Now, when you take a nap do you notice how refreshed you feel?

But isn't napping a waste of time? I kind of thought so, the last few months I was recovering from a knee replacement surgery. My surgeon warned me that, although it's a fairly routine surgery, recovery would go faster if I remembered three simple things: ice is my friend (constant ice compresses reduced postop pain almost as well as opioids), stick to the physical therapy (prevention of stiffness made recovery more doable) and commit to rest (which means sleep and relaxing). Turns out, staying awake was hard and I often fell asleep mid-sentence. I soon realized I was taking naps every few hours, and if nothing else, it helped me rest my surgical site. My recovery was quick and easy. I slept through most of it.

Don't think of napping as lost time or feel guilty for indulging in daytime sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, naps can boost memory and mood, improve job performance and alertness, and reduce stress. Here, I'll share the basics I found in my quick research:

Dos and don'ts of napping

Don't overdo it. A short nap of 20 to 30 minutes is recommended for short-term alertness. A 30-minute nap in the early afternoon-combined with moderate exercise, like a walk and stretching in the evening-can improve nighttime sleep. Longer naps can make you sluggish, because they require your body to kick you awake from a deeper sleep (called "sleep inertia"). It's also important not to nap late in the day, because this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

Pick the right time. See above: early afternoon, people. The best hour for most people to nap is between 2 and 3 p.m. That's because you've already eaten lunch, and your blood sugar and energy levels naturally start to dip. In fact, your body clock is often programmed to make you feel a little sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. Make sure you wake up no less than three hours before bedtime.

Nap at work. There is no reason to apologize for napping at work. Daytime drowsiness can affect concentration, attention to detail, mood, productivity and creativity. Sleep-deprived workers can be affected by health issues, such as hypertension, diabetes and depression. Just like your other naps, if the schedule works out, take it between 2 and 3 p.m. and keep it to 20 minutes (easily fitting in a lunch break). Pick a quiet spot-your car, an outdoor bench, an office.

Lots to think about, but if it's wearing you out, take a nap!

Dr. Mike Paul is the former executive director of the Companion Animal Parasite Council and a former president of the American Animal Hospital Association. He is currently the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting. He is retired from practice and lives in Anguilla, British West Indies.

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