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How long should you nap?

By Abbie Stutzer | 2 Minute Read

Many people feel tired during the day. Although taking a nap is a great way to combat sleepiness, you may have a hard time determining how long you should nap.

First, the very good news. All napping is considered beneficial. It isn’t a sign of laziness. People from various cultures and walks of life nap throughout their lives. However, as the Journal of Sleep Research suggests, the length of a nap a typical person needs, and how often naps are needed, vary because of day-to-day happenings.

When You Should Nap for 10 Minutes, or Up to 30 Minutes

The spindles we mentioned earlier (they are events that occur during light sleep) are why power naps work, too. Short naps, also known as power naps, can accelerate a typical person’s memory consolidation by inducing NREM sleep, when light sleep occurs and spindles appear.

The average person can benefit from a 6 to 10 minute cat nap. However, 20 to 30 minutes is considered to be the “perfect” nap length, especially when that nap is taken in the early afternoon. Napping in the evening can, unfortunately, interrupt nighttime sleep.

In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers discovered that study participants’ memory performance benefited from 30 minutes of daytime napping. The same study also proved that an “ultra short period” of 6 minute napping sufficiently boosted memory performance, too.

However, nappers take note. A person who takes a 5-15 minute nap can immediately feel benefits of increased alertness. People who take longer naps (30 minutes) may feel groggy upon waking, but could benefit from improved cognitive performance for a longer period of time.

Thankfully, people crave mid-day naps because of a natural, mid-day slump. The human body tends to experience a small dip in temperature between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.. This temperature dip signals the brain to produce melatonin, which induces sleep.

And if you’re looking to give your power nap an additional punch, consider taking a coffee nap. Simply drink a cup of coffee before laying down for a 20-minute nap. When you wake up, the caffeine will have kicked in, and you’ll feel rested and alert.

When You Should Nap for 60 Minutes, 90 Minutes, or More

Although getting a full night’s sleep is important, research shows that most memory improving sleep happens in the first 3.5 hours of sleep. This is, basically, when a typical person “naps”.

It’s during these first few hours of sleep that memories are consolidated because of events called spindles. These spindles occur during Stage 1 and 2 of light sleep. They seem to be connected with learning and memory formation.

A 2015 study that appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences discovered that a 60-minute midday nap can help a person better control their impulses. In addition to impulse control, research subjects also reported greater tolerance for frustration.

Also, a 60- to 90-minute nap can improve a typical person’s memory. In a 2003 study that appeared in Nature Neuroscience, Sara Mednick, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, and her colleagues found that a person can gain the same amount of learning benefits after a 90-minute nap compared to an eight-hour sleep period.

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