man and his chihuahua napping on a couch, with an open book in his lap
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Finding the sweet spot: How long should you nap?

November 8, 2023
4 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Sleep wellness strategies

You heard it here first: napping is a good thing. Really!

When you're dragging through the day, a little bit of extra energy from a nap can help you make it to bedtime. Strategic napping is key, however. Napping too long can make you feel excessively drowsy and disrupt your nighttime sleep, while naps that are too short may not be effective.

Here, we'll take a look at everything you need to know about productive napping, and how you can get the most out of an afternoon snooze.

Benefits of napping

young woman napping on a sofa

While getting high-quality rest at night is ideal, it's not always possible. From kids waking up in the middle of the night to jobs that require you to be available during nighttime hours, it can be tough to get the rest that you need. For some people, naps are only needed from time to time. For others, it makes more sense to make napping a part of a normal schedule. No matter what type of nap makes the most sense for you, snoozing in the middle of the day can have many benefits.

Benefits of napping during the day may include:

  • Enhanced mood
  • Increased relaxation
  • Improved alertness and reduced fatigue
  • Boost in reaction time
  • Boost in memory performance
  • Boost in job performance
  • Lowered stress levels

While many people enjoy the benefits of napping, it's not the right solution for everyone. If you find that you feel too disoriented to get back to your normal activities after a nap, or you find that napping during the day makes it feel impossible to fall asleep at night, you may want to focus on improving the quality of your normal sleep instead of resting during the day.

An important note: if you're experiencing sudden fatigue during the day that can't be attributed to an obvious cause (such as working longer hours or welcoming a new baby), it's a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to find the underlying cause of your daytime sleepiness.

Sleep science: How napping affects the mind and body

Mid-day sleeping can be beneficial for your mind. In healthy adults, napping for a short time can increase dopamine, which can make it easier for you to fall asleep later. Naps can also increase your brain's level of serotonin--the happy chemical--which can help you maintain a heightened mood and increase your productivity.

The benefits of napping go beyond the brain. Research shows that taking a short nap may provide your immune system with a boost, which can be especially helpful if you're in the process of recovering from an illness.

Ideal nap duration

Timing is key when it comes to making the most of your afternoon rest. While it may be tempting to nap for hours at a time, this usually isn't the best idea (with a few exceptions).

Are short naps better than long naps?

It's important to understand your sleep cycles in order to find the best amount of time to nap for your situation.

There are four general stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1: Light sleep that lasts less than seven minutes.
  • Stage 2: Deeper sleep that lasts up to 25 minutes following the end of stage 1.
  • Stage 3: Deep sleep that lasts about 40 minutes.
  • REM Sleep: Dreaming occurs in this stage of sleep.

You'll want to try to hit the sweet spot when it comes to napping smart--waking up before stage 3 begins, or giving yourself enough time to get through a full sleep cycle. If you wake up in stage 3, you're more likely to feel groggy and fatigued after you wake up.

Generally, short naps are best for getting a quick mid-day boost of energy. Just 10 to 20 minutes (don't forget to set your alarm) can help you get the boost of alertness you need to feel your best.

If a short nap isn't going to cut it, aim for a nap of at least 90 minutes, and try to be done with your nap before 3 p.m. Napping later can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

Napping strategies: How to snooze smart

Getting the most out of your sleep is key when it comes to napping. Here, we'll take a look at a few different strategies you can use to make sure every minute of your nap counts.

Set an alarm

There's nothing worse than promising yourself you're just going to rest your eyes... only to find that you wake up hours later. Setting an alarm as soon as you begin to feel sleepy and decide to nap can help you actually get the rest that you need, without constantly jolting awake worrying about whether you've napped for too long.

Create a restful environment

It can be tempting to snooze on the couch with the TV turned on, but actually taking a nap in a restful space can help you maximize the benefits of your sleep. Heading to your bedroom (if possible), drawing the blinds, and turning on a white noise machine can all help.

Silence your notifications

We've all been there: finally drifting off to sleep for a much-needed nap, only to get pinged with a pointless social media notification. Putting your phone on do not disturb mode can help you relax and enjoy the full benefits of your nap.

The coffee nap

Yep, you read that right--coffee and napping can work together to help you become more alert. Experts recommend drinking a cup of coffee followed by a 30-minute nap. When you wake up, the caffeine from the coffee will have kicked in, and you'll reap the benefits of a brief rest.

Evidation: Taking Your Health to the Next Level

At Evidation, we're here to help you meet your health goals, one healthy decision at a time. Whether you're just getting started on your health journey or you're working to make the most out of your wellness plan, we're excited to be a part of your journey. Download the app today and get started!

Sleep wellness strategies
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