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How to Take the Perfect Nap (And Why It's So Good for You)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

In today’s world, we reward those who do more and go faster. So, who has time to take a nap?

According to startsleeping.org, scientific evidence tells us that a midday nap can boost focus, mood, energy, creativity and energy levels, and can potentially have the same benefits that come with a full night of sleep. But that all depends on the quality of the nap.

So, what makes for the perfect nap? It’s all about when you nap and for how long. Nap too late in the day, and you’ll have trouble sleeping at night; nap for too long and you’ll be rendered useless by “sleep inertia”—that zombie-like state of grogginess you just can’t seem to shake.

For early risers, the best time to nap is between 1:00 - 1:30 p.m.; for night owls, between 2:30 - 3:00 p.m. When it comes to how long to nap, here are the impacts of various nap-lengths to consider:

The 15 to 20 minute nap. Also known as the “power nap,” with this snooze, you’ll get all the benefits of a nap without the grogginess because your brain never enters a state of slow wave sleep. The power nap allows you to boost your energy, improve motor performance, alertness and learning ability. This type of nap offers the best way to make up for a poor night's sleep.

To ensure you don’t sleep beyond this brief timeframe, set your alarm for 20 minutes, building in five minutes to fall asleep. Or drink coffee right before going to sleep; the caffeine will kick in after 20 minutes, naturally waking you.

The 20 to 60 minute nap. If you nap for 20 to 60 minutes, you’ll enter deeper stages of sleep where your brain will slow down, which can help with memorization and learning. You will feel groggy upon waking after this amount of time, however, so this nap comes with residual effects.

The 60-plus minute nap. Nap for more than 60 minutes and you’ll enter R.E.M (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when you dream. R.E.M. sleep is associated with creativity, perceptual processing and associative thinking. Expect to experience sleep inertia after this long of a nap, though.

The 90-minute nap. Should you have the time to nap for 90 minutes, you’ll have a chance to come full circle. A 90-minute nap will take you from the light stages of sleep, through the deep phase, and back to the light stage, so when you wake up, you'll feel refreshed. Naps of this length boost memory and creativity. Just be careful it doesn’t interfere with your sleep at night.

After a nap of any length, expose yourself to sunlight and get some exercise to keep your circadian rhythms in order.

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