Why You Should Be Reaping The Benefits Of A Post-Therapy Nap

Perhaps the only situation where midday naps are encouraged in adulthood is after a productive therapy session, though they should probably be allowed outside of this, too. Therapy is inherently an uncomfortable process that can weigh on you as you continue with your day. For the most part, it's normal to leave your therapy session feeling drained and unsettled. Aside from the emotional exhaustion that is typically reported after a therapy session, it is also common to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and even nausea. These combined emotional and physical symptoms are often referred to as a post-therapy hangover (via HuffPost).


From a psychological point of view, these physical symptoms make sense when you consider the somatic effects of stress. According to Harvard Health, stress can manifest somatically when spikes in cortisol and adrenaline trigger the sympathetic nervous system or the "fight-or-flight" response. Remaining in this state for long periods of time can be taxing on the body. This biological response explains why talking about stressful situations during therapy can stimulate hangover-like symptoms after your session. This is where sleep and healing work hand in hand.

Post-therapy naps can improve the benefits of therapy

Therapy can be a form of release from years of pent-up emotion, and when this emotion bubbles to the surface, the resulting exhaustion and confusion can become overwhelming. As shown in a 2009 study in Psychological Bulletin, sleep facilitates memory formation and processing. In other words, sleep allows the mind to process memories and emotions. A lack of sleep, therefore, can drastically affect your brain's ability to form positive connections between experiences and memory, which are necessary for your brain to cement the initial foundations of learning that you acquired during your therapy session. 


As such, post-therapy naps strengthen the healing that occurs during your session, as shown in a 2014 study in Psychological Medicine. Meanwhile, according to a popular 2017 study, this process is referred to as treatment adherence (via research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology). These post-session naps encourage your mind to learn from therapy and, in turn, enhance the effects of treatment.

Accommodate for your therapy session

It's been established that sleeping after therapy helps your mind absorb and process information acquired through therapy, as per a 2001 study in Learning & Memory. There is a lack of research, however, to determine the best time to take a nap after a therapy session. The key thing to remember is that REM sleep is required for your brain to fully process and retain information. In other words, a short 20-minute nap several hours after a session is unlikely to do the trick. So, if you schedule a therapy session before work or other appointments, then you're missing out on significant processing time that can improve treatment.


The best way to pencil in a REM-inducing nap is to make sure you clear your schedule for the remainder of the day after your session. Even if you don't feel like taking a nap after therapy, make an effort to take it slow after a session instead of allowing yourself to move on too quickly, which can hinder retention.