Did you know there’s a science to mastering the perfect nap? Of course, a comfy pillow and a soft blanket help, but believe it or not, the length of your nap is what counts most. According to sleep experts, syncing your nap to your sleep cycle is the best way to get the most out of that daytime doze. While hitting the snooze button might seem like a good idea when you’re exhausted, those extra few minutes of sleep may actually have the opposite effect, leaving you groggy and disoriented.
Research suggests naps offer many health benefits, including helping you relax, reducing fatigue, improving your mood, and boosting alertness, memory and creativity. In fact, many companies are even recognizing the connection between sleep and increased productivity by offering “nap pods” to their employees.
So what exactly is that napping sweet spot? Depending on your needs and schedule, you can choose between:
The Power Nap - 20 minutes
20 minutes is the perfect amount of time for a quick jolt of energy and alertness, keeping you in the lighter stages of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. Because you haven’t yet hit the deeper stages of a sleep cycle, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of your day. Tip: For an added lift, drink a cup of coffee before you lie down—it will take effect just as you’re waking.
The Luxury Nap - 90 minutes
If you can swing 90 minutes, which encompasses a full sleep cycle, you’ll improve your creativity and emotional and procedural memory, making this the holy grail of naps for artists or anyone who needs to go for a drive or emotionally recharge. To get even more out of your nap, grab an eye mask, lie down if possible (it takes 50% longer to fall asleep sitting down), and take a few deep breaths to gently ease your body into a state of rest.
Here’s what to avoid:
The Danger Zone - 30 or 60 minutes
Once you veer into this tricky territory, you’ll hit the deeper stages of sleep where your brain waves slow down, making you feel groggy when you wake up. Not only will you have a harder time getting up, you won’t be able to cash in on the recharging benefits of taking a longer or shorter nap—in fact, it’s better to skip it altogether.
So next time you hit that dreaded afternoon slump, remember there’s no need to give yourself a guilt trip about treating yourself to a siesta—science has got your back (and so do we).