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01/13/2015 08:27 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2015

How To Keep Sleepless Nights From Ruining Your Day

Robert Daly via Getty Images

I’m tired. And I’m in good company: By many estimates, up to 70 percent of the U.S. population is at least a little sleep deprived. And while only about a third of adults are regular nappers, public-health experts are increasingly backing the restorative role of a quick daytime snooze.

A nap of up to 90 minutes can boost learning skills as much as a whole night’s sleep, researcher Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap: Change Your Life, has shown. (Her website has a nap wheel that can help you customize your optimal nap time.) Employers like the Huffington Post and Deloitte have added nap rooms; Google has fancy pod-like chairs just to make naps dreamier. And colleges around the country are putting cots in libraries and sprinkling beanbag bag chairs in lounges, all in hopes of encouraging more naps.

Meanwhile, a large study in the U.K. has shown that people who nap routinely are more likely to die than those who don’t. “By no means did our study imply that napping is a cause of death and therefore you should not nap,” explains Yue Leng, a sleep epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge. She points out that in the U.K., where napping is not part of the cultural norm, “it may be more plausible that daytime napping is an early indicator of underlying ill health in apparently healthy, aging population.”

In general, she says, “power naps are a good way to compensate for sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness, especially for shift workers. It is very helpful for improving their performance and reducing hazards at work as a result of sleepiness.”

"We have much more to learn about daytime naps, but we do know that daytime sleepiness isn’t good. So a power nap when you feel tired can be encouraged.”

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