What's the best length of time for a nap?
Napping isn’t just for children. Studies show that an occasional nap is great for adults, too. Next time you’re feeling a little sleepy and contemplating having a nap, remember that a short nap in the middle of the day can boost memory, improve alertness and productivity, lift your mood and ease stress.
So what’s the optimal nap length?
Experts have studied different lengths of naps to find out how people feel afterwards and how it affected them for the rest of the day. Here’s what they have found:
“The Power Nap” between 10 - 25 minutes
If you’re really tired, a power nap can help you to feel much more alert for up to 2 hours after the nap. This is a great idea when you’re driving for long distances. If you’re feeling drowsy behind the wheel, pulling over for a quick power nap will help to keep you alert so that you drive safely for another couple of hours.
“Mid-length Nap” between 30-60 Minutes
The mid-length nap of up to an hour is just long enough to take you past the quick jolt of alertness that comes from a power nap, but you won’t fall into a deep sleep and complete a full REM cycle. However, this is the least optimal nap length as clinical tests found that research subjects were more likely to feel groggy after a mid-length nap.
You might be better off to skip the nap completely if you’re going to nap for this amount of time, because you’re more than likely to feel less alert than before.
“The One Hour Nap”
When you nap for at least an hour, 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. During phases of deep sleep, your brain starts to funnel memories into the neocortex, which is your brain’s long-term storage facility. Studies have shown that people who read technical details and then take an hour-long nap can recall up to 20% more information, and recall it more accurately, than those who don’t nap after reading the same information.
“The Long Nap” for 90 Minutes
Most sleep experts agree that the best nap that you can take during the day is one that lasts for an hour and a half. This is the length of a full REM cycle, which takes you from the lightest stage of sleep into a deep level of sleep, and back again. The benefits of a long nap such as this includes:
Improved emotional stability
Improved procedural memory (memories used to learn new skills)
An invigorated feeling when you wake up
How to Get the Most out of Your Nap
Now that you know that a Power Nap or a Long Nap are the most beneficial nap times, here are a few more tips on how to make the most of your naps:
- Quieten the mind. Meditating for a few minutes before falling asleep will help to stop your brain from racing so that you can get the best rest possible.
- Remove any distractions. It’s best to nap somewhere quiet and with low light. If that’s difficult, try wearing an eye mask and ear plugs or noise-reducing headphones.
- Don’t forget to set an alarm. To make sure that you don’t nap longer than intended.
- Nap in the middle of the day. The National Sleep Foundation of America reports that the best time for a nap is in the middle of your day, between 1.00p.m. and 3.00p.m. However, if you’re out of bed very early in the morning, then taking a nap around midday would be best for you. If you don’t usually get out of bed until 8am, then your best nap time is around 3.00pm. Anything later than 3.00pm has the potential to upset your nighttime sleep routine.
Of course, nothing beats getting a good 8 hour sleep on a regular basis. If you’re not sleeping well at night and finding that a daily nap is necessary, you may want to think about getting a new mattress!