It’s mid-afternoon and you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open. You have no energy, and your cognitive function is low. All you want to do is go to sleep. But is napping good for you?
A lot of people nap. A recent Australian study found that 50% of people reported taking at least one nap per week. In other countries, where an afternoon siesta is common, up to 72% of people nap as often as four times per week.
Napping has many positive benefits:
• Increases alertness
• Improves cognitive function
• Decreases reaction time
• Improves short-term memory
• Improves mood and general outlook
Naps provide the benefits of that afternoon caffeine shot, without the side-effects of jitters, bowel issues, caffeine crash, and possible trouble falling asleep at night.
How long should you nap?
Short (power) nap: a short nap should be about 15 – 20 minutes. A nap of this length will leave you refreshed and ready to go. If you sleep longer, say an hour, you may wake up feeling groggy. This is because after about 20 minutes, your body enters the deep sleep phase. If you wake during deep sleep, you will feel confused and “out of it.” This feeling often makes people wish they had skipped the nap.
Long nap: roughly two hours is a good amount of time for a long nap. At this timeframe, your body has a chance to complete a deep sleep cycle, and you will wake feeling well-rested. This type of nap is great if you need to catch up on some missed sleep, or if you know you’re going to be going to bed late and want to prepare.
Napping longer than two hours can have significant effect on your ability to fall asleep at night and disrupt circadian rhythm, so nap with caution.