We know that sleep is essential for our overall well-being. The 6-8 hours that is recommended for most adults ensures that we fulfill all sleep cycles to wake up feeling refreshed and energized. But what about naps? Whether or not you get a full night of sleep, you can benefit from a quick snooze.
Naps can give us a boost of energy while increasing our productivity, thinking, and focus. Before heading to bed in the middle of your work day, though, there are some things you should know. First, the best time to nap is between 1 and 4 PM. This way, you wake up with enough time before heading to bed again to exhaust the energy you gained while napping. Second, not all naps were created equal.
The Cat Nap
The 10-20 minute nap known as the cat nap is the short and sweet sleep we take usually after a meal or to break up a long work day. A nap as short as this one can help you improve your mood by improving our breathing, lessening stress, and regaining focus on the day ahead. Only the first phase of the sleep cycle is accomplished in roughly 20 minutes, meaning our bodies can relax despite not entering a deep sleep. The cat nap is perfect for anyone anyone who requires maximum energy and alertness but doesn’t have a ton of time.
The NASA Nap
This is the ultimate power nap, backed by science. Research conducted by NASA suggests that 26 minutes is the perfect length of time for a nap. They found that in only 26 minutes, pilots showed alertness improvements of up to 54% and job-performance improvements by 34% compared to pilots who didn't nap. NASA’s findings suggest you can get many of the benefits of a longer nap or a night’s sleep in a much shorter time frame. So next time you want to catch some midday shut-eye, set your timer for 26 minutes and catch some z’s. The NASA nap should be a go-to for anyone doing work where performance improvements are the main goal.
The Deep Sleeper
At 45-60 minutes worth of sleep, you’ve replenished your energy and supported the brain function required to develop memories. One study found that 45-minute nappers had up to five times improved memory recall functions while another study found that 90-minute naps improved overall cognitive function. This kind of nap is perfect for students who need to keep their memories and their cognition at their best before a big test.
The Full Cycle Nap
There are a few reasons why 90-minute naps are considered the ideal nap. The main reason, however, is that it is the perfect length of time to complete one full sleep cycle, which includes deep sleep. Getting to REM sleep during a nap can make waking up easier, boost your creativity, replenish your energy, and regulate your digestive health. A full cycle nap is best for you if you didn’t achieve a good quality of sleep the night before.
Avoid The Sleep Hangover
30-minute naps and any nap over 90-minute naps can leave us feeling more tired than when we went to sleep. At 30 minutes, you’ve only just begun deeper stages of sleep, and interrupting that moment can cause a change in mood and overall exhaustion. Some sleep scientists consider naps over 90 minutes just a poor quality second sleep. One that, counterproductive to napping, can leave you feeling groggy and distracted.
To achieve the best nap for your schedule, pick the best nap for you, set an alarm, and head to bed as you would at night. The environment for achieving a restful sleep (cool, dark, and comfortable) matters just as much for 10-minute nappers as it does for 90-minute ones.