The Benefits of Napping


What should you know about the benefits of napping? First of all, they aren’t just for children. About one-third of adults in the U.S. get in a daily nap. And more men than women are fond of napping. For many people, naps can be a way to refresh and recharge mid-day. 


Why Should I Nap?

While healthy adults don’t need to nap, many find napping provides positive benefits. Helping you feel refreshed to meet the demands of your day, preparing you for when you may be short on sleep (like when you have to work or study late into the night), and improving your mood and energy level, are all benefits of napping.


How Long Should I Nap?

Researchers say a 20 minute nap is the best length. A short nap like this allows your mind and body to rest without entering the deeper stages of sleep. If you have time and a need for a longer nap, napping for 60 to 90 minutes is enough time to have deep, slow-wave sleep, but end up in the lighter stages of sleep so you feel alert when you awake. Medium-length naps of around 45 minutes can be problematic because you will likely wake up during slow-wave sleep, the deepest stage, which can leave you with that groggy feeling—called sleep inertia—when you wake up.


But a short nap still has benefits! Scientists have found that when people napped around 30 minutes, they had better memory recall and superior overall cognition than both non-nappers and those who napped longer. You may be familiar with the term “power nap.” How long is a power nap? Power naps taken in the early afternoon usually last 15 to 20 minutes and can restore and refresh you when experiencing a natural decline in energy and wakefulness. NASA tested the effects of power napping on astronauts and found it had an effective boost to performance and alertness.


Are Naps Good for You?

Naps are good for both children and adults. Many studies point out nap time reduces daytime sleepiness, as well as boosts learning and performance. For shift workers, naps can improve alertness and reaction times. And we know babies, toddlers, and young children benefit from naps in numerous ways. They help meet a child’s daily sleep requirement of 9-17 hours of sleep depending on age, improve their behavior and emotional self-regulation, and aid their memory and language learning.


What If You Don’t Typically Nap?

If you feel like naps throw off your nightly sleep or you don’t feel refreshed after taking one, you just might not be someone who benefits from mid-day rest. But if you feel tired during the day, try napping for less than 20 minutes. 


Other Tips for Napping:

I recommend napping before 3 p.m., so that your nap has less impact on your nighttime sleep. 

On days you aren’t able to take a nap, getting out in bright sunlight can help restore energy.

Set an alarm so you don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes.

Find a cool, quiet, dark place for napping, or consider wearing an eye mask and earplugs.