Tired is the new busy. While naps can help, they’re not always the trick to a well-rested existence. Read on to discover the various benefits of good naps, plus how to take a nap that leaves you feeling fully refreshed.
What are the benefits of napping?
When done properly (yes, there is a “right” way to nap!), there’s nothing wrong with taking a nap. In fact, a short siesta can boost your mental and physical health. Let’s take a look at the benefits.
- Better cognition: Taking a power nap leaves you feeling more alert. In turn, your brain should function more efficiently.
- Improved memory: A good nap right after learning something new appears to help us retain that information. Napping can help with perceptual learning (being able to differentiate between various stimuli) and episodic memory (recalling specific events or experiences).
- Boosted immunity: “Sleep deprivation increases the release of pro-inflammatory markers and causes immunodeficiency,” says Natasha Fuksina, MD, a board certified internal medicine doctor. “Counteracting this with napping during the day for a period of several days improves the immune system and cellular function.”
How long should my nap be?
“For most people, the 20- to 30-minute ‘power nap’ is the sweet spot for boosting alertness and focus,” says Jeff Rodgers, DMD, a certified sleep expert with the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep and Breathing Academy.
“Waking up just 30 minutes after falling asleep for a nap ensures you’re in the early stages of the sleep cycle and won’t feel groggy upon waking,” he says. Longer naps may also interfere with the quality of your nighttime sleep. “Some people can get into cycles of napping by day and sleeping poorly at night as a consequence,” he says. However, if you’re really struggling, Rodgers says a 90-minute nap may work. “This nap ensures that an entire sleep cycle has taken place, helping avoid grogginess,” he explains.
How do I nap?
- Nap between 1 and 3 p.m. “These hours are a natural slump time for humans. If you try to nap earlier than that, your body probably won’t be ready for more sleep, and if you nap later than that, it can disrupt your sleep at night.”
- Set up your environment as you would for nighttime sleep: Make it as dark, cool, and quiet as possible. Try an eye mask or a white noise machine, if those help you.
- You may want to nap on a couch or cozy chair rather than in your bed. “You don’t want to become too comfortable and sleep for too long, since this may make it difficult to wake up.”
The bottom line
Naps can support our mental health, make us more productive, and may even benefit our immunity. Still, many of us want to know how to take a nap that won’t leave us feeling more tired. The trick is to keep your nap to 20 to 30 minutes and choose the same sleeping environment you would at night.