The nap—every child’s nightmare and every parent’s dream.
A nap may be just what you need, whether you’re preparing to hit the road for a long drive, are up against a deadline at work or have children who don’t quite sleep through the night yet. However, taking a nap can sometimes hurt more than it helps. So, let’s talk about how to make the most out of your naps (whenever you can fit them in).
How Long Should you Nap?
The experts at the Science of People have studied various lengths of naps to see how people felt afterwards and how they impacted their performance the rest of the day. Here’s what they found:
10-20 Minutes: “The Power Nap”
If you are truly sleep deprived, a short 10- to 20-minute nap can help give you a jolt of alertness for up to 2 hours. This can be great before long road trips. If you’re worried about getting drowsy behind the wheel, pulling over to a safe spot for a quick power nap can help energize you for the next long stretch.
Pro Tip: Take a “caffeine power nap." Health trainers at Daily Burn say if you only have time for a 10- to 20-minute nap, try drinking a cup of coffee right before you lie down.
“Because caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, drinking a cup before a 10- to 20-minute nap means the caffeine will start working just as you wake up, leaving you feeling refreshed and alert,” says one Daily Burn trainer.
30-60 Minutes: “The Grogginess Nap”
Its name says it all. The 30- to 60-minute nap falls into an in-between space on the napping chart. It is just long enough to take you past the quick jolt of alertness that comes from a power nap, but falls short of a full REM cycle. Experts say you are more likely to feel the effects of sleep inertia (that feeling of grogginess you get when your alarm goes off in the morning) when you take a 30- to 60-minute nap.
“It might not be worth it to nap at all if you’re going to nap for this amount of time, because you’ll likely come out of your shuteye feeling less alert than before,” researchers at The National Sleep Foundation say.
60 Minutes: “The Short-Term Nap”
When you nap for at least 60 minutes, you start to enter your deep sleep cycle. This slows your brain waves and can have many benefits, especially when it comes to making memories and recalling important information. That’s because, during deep sleep, the brain starts to push memories into the neocortex, which is like your brain’s long-term storage facility. Studies have shown that people who study facts and then take a 60-minute nap can recall up to 20% more information, and recall it more accurately, than those who stay awake longer.
90 Minutes: “The REM Nap”
Most experts agree that the ideal length for a nap is 90 minutes. An hour and a half is the length of a full REM cycle, which takes you from the lightest stage of sleep to the deepest, and back again, allowing you to dream. The benefits of a 90-minute nap can include:
- Increased creativity
- Improved emotional stability
- Improved procedural memory (used to learn new skills)
- A “refreshed” feeling when you wake up
How to Get the Most out of Your Nap
Now that you’ve figured out the ideal length of a nap (ideally a power nap or REM nap), here are a few more tips on how to make the most of your naps:
- Quiet the mind. Some sleep researchers recommend meditating for a few minutes before falling asleep to help quiet the mind. That way, your brain is not racing with all the things on your to-do list and you can get the best rest possible.
- Remove distractions. Find a quiet place that is dark (or at least dim). If that’s a tall order in the middle of a busy day, consider an eye mask and ear plugs or headphones with some calming white noise.
- Set your alarm. You don’t want to accidentally sleep too long and miss an important meeting or sleep too long and fall into the grogginess nap.
- Pick the right time of day. Researchers at the National Sleep Foundation say the best time for a nap is in the middle of your day, around 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. If you’re an early riser (like 5 a.m.-early), then a nap closer to 1 p.m. might be perfect for you. If your mornings start a little later, then a nap closer to 3 p.m. is probably best. Anything later has the potential to ruin your nighttime sleep routine.
No matter your nap preferences, getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is the most important thing. Of course, for that we recommend a great mattress, so you can rest (and nap) on.