There’s a science to naps, and you’ve got to master the science in order to take the perfect nap. Before we break it down for you and give you all the answers to take the perfect nap, we need to explain the science behind sleep. When you are asleep your body enters a different state of consciousness (you expend very little energy for a prolonged time). When we sleep at night, we enter many different “stages,” each with distinct brain waves and effects. Long story short, there’s NREM sleep, which helps your thinking, and REM sleep, which is where dreams come from. Sleep is measured in 90 minute cycles (which include NREM and REM).
Besides being awesome in general (who doesn’t love a little extra sleep?!), naps are amazing for your health. They’ve been proven to reduce stress, normalize blood pressure, stabilize weight, and increase alertness. Most importantly, they’re directly responsible for better brain function.
Now, depending on what you’re looking for (rest, brain power, stress reduction) there are right and wrong naps based off of the sleep cycle explained above.
Here’s your cheat sheet – how, when, how long, and how often to nap.
Types of naps:
Planned napping: You’re not sleepy yet, but you know you’ve got a long night ahead of you.
Emergency napping: When you literally cannot keep your head up, or focus on what you’re doing. Emergency naps should be used, for example, if you’re too tired to drive.
Habitual napping: Like any other good habit, napping at the same time each day can boost your daily efficiency.
Appetitive napping: Napping purely for enjoyment/indulgence.
Only nap between 1pm and 4pm: If you nap too early, you can throw off your body’s natural energy cycle. If you nap too late, you risk insomnia at night.
Know why you’re napping: See the tips below. Nap lengths vary depending on your goal–taking a nap to increase energy is different than taking a nap to increase memory.
Lengths and reasons:
6-7 minutes: Two or three “tiny” naps every hour can help your declarative memory, which is your ability to recite facts and remember things you’ve already learned. This type of nap is great for staying focused and alert during studying.
10 minutes-30 minutes: This nap puts you into NREM sleep, which helps you consolidate memories and increase attention. These naps are the easiest to wake up from and are effective for an afternoon pick-me-up.
60 minutes: An hour of sleep can boost your efficiency to do work. But these naps are most likely to leave you groggy if you’re not a “natural napper.” If you’re inexperienced, it’s best to work up to this nap instead of starting off with it right away and risk being tired.
90 minutes: This nap is a full cycle of sleep and helps with problem solving and creativity because you fall into the deepest sleep. Plus, because you completed a full sleep cycle these are much easier to wake up from.
90+ minutes: Don’t do it. There are no known benefits and it seriously affects your nighttime sleep!
In the middle of a long day, we all daydream about napping. But now that you’re equipped with this guide you can stop daydreaming and start sleeping!
By: Heidi Meyers