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While getting enough sleep at night can be a problem for many people, napping is a way happier subject. Unless you’re a stressed-out mother trying to get a fractious toddler to rest, naps are a matter of pleasant indulgence.

Dr. Chana Zablocki, a family physician and medical director here at the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living’s Stein Hospice, sees napping as a benefit for anyone who feels they need it.

As people age, she explains, lower hormone levels can interfere with our ability to get enough hours of deep REM sleep. For those who aren’t sleeping well at night, she favors day time naps of at least an hour. That allows for a helpful dose of REM sleep.

Whether you take that rest in an armchair, or snuggled into bed is a personal choice, dependent on how you breathe most easily. “Good oxygen levels are important,” she explained, “so do whatever works best for you.”

Jennifer Soong, writing for WebMD Magazine, says research shows that if you nap for more than 20 minutes it helps “boost memory and enhance creativity. Slow-wave sleep, napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes, is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions.”

Dr. Sara C. Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, recommends napping at the same time each day, usually between 1 pm and 3 pm, in a darkened room. A good nap, Mednick says, not only reduces stress, it can also help keep the heart healthy.

On the other hand, according to the sleep experts at the Mayo Clinic, too much napping can interfere with night sleep. They recommend short naps, and not too many. Wanting to sleep much more than usual may be a symptom of depression or anxiety. Excess fatigue, like the inability to sleep, can also signal an underlying malaise, or a problem with medication.

But wakefulness itself doesn’t have to be a problem. Quiet rest time can be invaluable, according to Audrey Oxenhorn LCSW, a therapist and life coach with a practice in East Millstone, NJ. “Down time can connect you to who you are,” she says.

Oxenhorn has led workshops on sleeping as educational programs sponsored by Wilf Campus. She says that the right attitude to that twilight space can make all the difference between getting refreshed and getting aggravated.

She points out that we live in a culture that offers perpetual stimulation throughout our waking hours – tv, internet, etc. “If we get bored, we don’t know what to do with ourselves,” she says. Our response is to use medication or drugs or alcohol to help us switch off. But that skews the body processes, producing a type of rest that is very different than natural sleep. “Our rhythms get out of whack,” she says.

Oxenhorn stresses that refreshing rest for the mind and the body doesn’t require “being comatose.” If you simply relax, the way some cultures do with their siestas, you can recharge your batteries, and face the rest of the day with renewed vigor.

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living, Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood at Stein Assisted Living, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, [email protected] or visit us at

The Secret (and Suprising) Power of Naps

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