When it comes to the perfect nap, there is both a science and an art. These short periods of dozing-off during the day are the best ways to unplug and recharge your brain, even if they are very brief. The global phenomenon of napping is something that we don’t learn but adopt naturally when we’re infants, and it continues through adulthood to a significantly reduced extent.
Most kids may not be fans of napping, while parents and teachers look forward to it. Regardless of whether you have a hyperactive toddler at home, having the right sleep pattern can bring with it a plethora of health benefits.
Sleep experts even argue that allowing for nap-time during working hours could boost productivity. We all know that napping can reduce sleepiness, improve our mood, short-term memory, and overall cognitive functioning, but today we’re going to look into the different types of naps that exist out there, as well as the best amount of time to nap.
Different Nap Types
Before lying down for a bit of shut-eye during the day, consider the type of nap that you should be taking. We’re not talking about whether you’ll be sleeping on your side or your back here. Instead, we’re going to focus on the many different types of naps that you can add to your routine, and we’ve selected nine of our favorites to present to you here.
The Jet Lag Nap
If you travel a lot, this will be a type of nap that you’re familiar with. Characterized most by its cause, rather than a unique approach to its execution, the jet lag nap will spare you the fatigue and frustration associated with jet lag and keep your energy up even if you have the strictest travel schedule.
When your itinerary is jam-packed, naps can help supplement nighttime sleep and help you transition into a new time zone. The one thing you need to focus on when it comes to the jet lag nap is scheduling the rest according to the time zone of your destination. This will help you adjust to the local schedule quicker and easier.
The Teen Nap
When children hit puberty, they begin to experience a radical shift in their circadian rhythms, which makes them more likely to go to bed late and sleep in. The problem with this is that schools start early, which doesn’t allow teens to get enough sleep, leaving them with a chronic sleep debt.
This lack of sleep can lead not only to immediate emotional, behavioral, or academic problems, but potential health issues down the line. An extended 90-minute recovery nap, or a short 20-minute after school nap, depending on the level of tiredness, can do wonders for teenagers.
The Shift Worker
There are many challenges that shift workers face when it comes to getting enough sleep because they disrupt their circadian clocks regularly. This means they are very likely to be sleep-deprived, and they face many risks due to their messy sleep schedule.
These risks include not only psychological issues, such as mood swings and irritability but also an increased probability of injury or accident due to fatigue. Thankfully, strategically timed naps can help shift workers break up their sleep into segments, giving them a world of potential benefits.
Naps are a regular part of the workday in some countries such as the Philippines, Costa Rica, Mexico, Greece, and Spain. Closing shop doors at 2:30 PM and dimming the lights in the workplace to give employees a chance to recharge their batteries is not something we see in the U.S. and other societies where napping in the workplace is frowned upon.
Perhaps it is time we started adopting these practices everywhere, to create a healthier and more productive working environment. If your company still isn’t convinced that napping on the job would be a great idea, try to look for ways to adjust your daily routine and get some downtime outside of your working hours.
The Disco Nap
Hailing from the days of Boney M. and the Bee Gees, this classic nap strategy entails taking a 90-minute nap before going out for a late night. This is a great way to give yourself the energy and stamina required for an evening of dancing, especially if you know that the festivities will run late into the night or early morning.
Keep in mind, however, that this is not a healthy lifestyle, and staying up through the night partying isn’t good for your body, no matter how many naps you take. This is a short-term strategy to give you the best chance of remaining alert and having fun.
When it comes to sports performance, it’s no secret that sleep is a powerful weapon. The only thing you need to do is time it properly. Whatever the activity and no matter how much energy you’re going to spend doing it, a short, well-timed nap can give you a significant edge.
A fifteen to twenty-minute nap improves your mental and physical performance in the short term, and by keeping the rest short, you avoid experiencing any sleep inertia upon waking. That said, there are benefits to be had from a long nap, but they come with a period of cleaning the cobwebs, meaning you’ll be tired and sluggish if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover.
The New Parent
Parents taking care of young children, such as newborns and even toddlers, can have many issues when it comes to sleeping through the night. Mothers often have postpartum insomnia or simply end up spending most of the night awake due to their kid crying. You’ve probably heard the advice to nap when your child naps, and we suggest sticking to it.
We understand that the time when your child is asleep may seem like the only available time you have in the day to be productive, or even to catch-up on your favorite TV show, but resist those temptations. If you get the sleep you require, you’ll be a better parent, with more focus, patience, and energy.
The Power Nap
When it comes to boosting your focus, daily energy, and mental performance, few things come close to a good old-fashioned power-nap. For the uninitiated, this is a mid-afternoon nap that shouldn’t last longer than 25 minutes.
Taking longer than that may result in a bad case of sleep inertia, leaving you feeling sluggish. A brief rest in the middle of the day can help keep your engine running no matter what tasks lay ahead. Just remember to still go to bed on time and get your seven hours of sleep every night.
The Coffee Nap
We saved the best for last, as this is our favorite strategy to tackle those low-energy days when you need a quick boost. Combine the Power Nap described above with a moderate amount of caffeine to get the benefits of both in one fell swoop.
All you need to do is drink a small cup of coffee as quickly as possible. Ideally, you shouldn’t take longer than a minute or two, so wait until the coffee is cool enough to drink. Once you’ve downed your coffee, find a quiet place in which to take a 20-minute power nap. Setting an alarm is a good idea just in case, but it likely won’t be necessary as you’ll be woken up when the caffeine kicks in.
What is an Ideal Nap Length for You?
Short: 10 to 25 minutes
If you want a quick dose of vigor and alertness to decrease fatigue, most experts agree that you should take a short power nap. This nap can be utilized in a variety of scenarios, ranging from your lunch break at work to a quick shut-eye in your car at a rest stop.
Groggy: 30 to 45 minutes
This type of nap is similar to the previous one in terms of benefits, but it has the added drawback of sleep inertia, hence the name. If you want to avoid this grogginess, keep your power naps under 25 minutes.
Non-REM: 60 minutes
According to sleep scientists, somewhere around the 60-minute mark of our nap, we start to get into our deep-sleep cycle. The trick about this nap length is to get to the very edge of sinking into a deep sleep before waking up.
This helps our brain in a variety of tasks such as remembering names and faces, places you’ve been, or other facts. It is challenging to get the nap length just right for this one, though, so it’s safer to either shorten the nap to under 25 minutes or extend it to 90 minutes.
REM nap: 90 minutes
Rapid eye movement (REM) napping involves going through an entire 90-minute sleep cycle. This can improve your procedural and emotional memory, as well as creativity. If you get the timing right, you can avoid sleep inertia altogether, since you’ll be close to wakefulness at the end of the cycle, but sleeping for 90 minutes during your working hours may not go over so well with your boss.
Improve Your Nap Time
When it comes to getting the most out of your nap time, preparation is critical. We already talked about how grabbing a quick cup of coffee just before taking a power nap can be beneficial, but you can do other things to improve the quality and effectiveness of your naps.
First of all, make sure you’re lying down in a quiet and dark room, free from your colleagues or other distractions, and use a high-quality mattress whenever possible. If your office doesn’t have such a place available, a pair of earplugs and an eye mask can be your friends. It might feel a bit odd at first, and your coworkers might even tease you, but you’ll get used to it quickly.
If you work in an office, chances are that the time you have for napping is limited at best, so it’s essential to make the most of it.
How long is a power nap?
Power nap length can differ from person to person, but it generally stays in the 15 to 25-minute range. Some people take longer to fall asleep, and the time you spend tossing and turning should not count towards the total.
Try and figure out how much time it might take for you to fall asleep and add about 20 minutes to get the amount of time you should set your timer to. Remember, power naps are going to help you become more productive during the day, so there’s no need to feel guilty.
How long should I nap?
This is a question only you can answer. If your work allows for long breaks in the middle of the day, taking a full 90-minute sleep cycle might be the most beneficial. However, for most people, this is going to be impossible. Taking a short power nap is probably the only option for the majority of the working population.
Taking a nap during your working hours, or even while you’re at home with the kids, may not always be possible. You might not even think of yourself as much of a napper, and you might feel guilty when you lie down in the middle of the day.
Some people claim that naps damage their productivity, leaving them feeling tired and sluggish for the remainder of the day. This may be true, but in our experience, there’s a nap length and type for everyone, and if you think there isn’t one for you, that just means you still haven’t found it.
That said, if done carelessly, naps can harm your sleep schedule, especially if you already suffer from sleep-related problems such as insomnia or depression. If you simply need some extra energy during the day, adjusting the length of your nap may do the trick, and a shorter rest could give you a boost without the negative side-effects of sleep inertia.