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How Long Should a Nap Be: Best Nap Length

Tara Youngblood Oct 04, 2022

How long should a nap be

Have you ever taken a 15-minute power nap right before a class or an important test? Or maybe you've caught some serious midday nap or shut-eye at work following a big lunch. Sometimes, you might have slept for 30 minutes or an hour, while other times, you might have slept the entire day away.

And there might have been times when you've grabbed a quick catnap just to feel better.

We've all been there at some point in our lives.

The benefits of napping vary greatly. However, some nap lengths are more conducive to fatigue recovery and enhanced cognitive function, while others can worsen sleepiness.

Taking a nap at the right time can help you combat the unpleasant symptoms of fatigue, such as sleepiness and difficulty concentrating. However, how long should you nap for?

Did You Know: Taking a short nap during the day can improve your performance at work. [1]

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Benefits of Napping

Napping isn't just about catching up on lost sleep; it's a practice that benefits your mental and physical well-being. From enhancing cognitive function to an energy boost boosting mood, the advantages of a brief shuteye are numerous and varied.

Discover how these short rest periods can significantly improve your health and daily life. Learn more by reading our blog, which discusses everything you need to know about napping and the benefits of napping in everyday life.

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Drawbacks of Napping

While there are plenty of nap benefits, it also comes with some drawbacks. Naps, significantly longer ones, can lead to sleep inertia, a state of grogginess and disorientation that might follow waking up.

This can temporarily impair cognitive function and reaction time. Moreover, napping late in the day or for extended periods can interfere with your nighttime sleep pattern, making it harder to fall or stay asleep at night. This disruption can lead to a cycle of poor sleep habits and overall sleep quality.

To better understand sleep inertia and its symptoms, explore our detailed page here: Understanding Sleep Inertia: Symptoms and Effects.

Sleep Study: An analysis of multiple studies suggests that napping for more than 60 minutes a day may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. [2]

Best Nap Lengths

In the United States, insufficient sleep is widespread, affecting about one-third of adults and 73% of high school students. [3] This sleep deficit not only heightens the risk of vehicle accidents and workplace mishaps but also poses significant health risks. Therefore, providing adequate sleep, both in quality and quantity, is crucial for overall safety and health.

The key to finding the sweet spot for napping is understanding the length of sleep cycles. A full sleep cycle lasts between 90 and 110 minutes, during which your body goes through all four stages of sleep: wake, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. [4] When you sleep at night, these sleep stages repeat several times, giving your body and brain time to recharge.

When you nap, you don't always benefit from a full sleep cycle because entering into a deep sleep and REM sleep can make waking up difficult, putting you at risk of feeling drowsy. If you want to know how long you should nap to feel energized, we have provided two nap lengths that adults should stick to:

Exploring the Different Nap Lengths

Navigating through the world of napping involves finding your ideal nap length for optimal rest.

Each type of nap uniquely enhances well-being, from brief, energizing power naps to longer, more restorative ones. Below, we'll explore these various nap durations in detail, helping you identify the desired nap length that aligns best with your lifestyle and health goals.

Let's delve into how to tailor your napping strategy for maximum benefit.

5 - 10 Minutes: Micro Naps

Naps lasting between 5-10 minutes are typically called "ultra-short naps" or "micro naps." These brief rest periods are designed for a quick refreshment, providing a burst of alertness and improved cognitive performance without the risk of sleep inertia.

Micro naps are especially useful when time is limited, but a quick recharge is needed. A study examined the effects of different nap lengths (5, 10, 20 and 30 minutes). Results showed that a 10-minute nap resulted in the greatest increase in immediate alertness. [5]

20 Minutes: Coffee Naps

Yes, there is such a thing. You take a nap immediately after drinking a cup of coffee. Doing so sounds very odd, but the caffeine in the coffee will take approximately 20 minutes to kick in, which is about the length of a standard short nap.

When you wake up, you'll have both the benefits of the nap (feeling refreshed and alert) and the caffeine boost from the coffee. If you're feeling a little tired or sluggish and need a quick pick-me-up, you might want to try a coffee nap!

20 - 30 Minutes: Power Naps

A nap lasting between 20 to 30 minutes, commonly known as a "power nap" or "short nap," is ideal for a quick refreshment break. During this brief period, you'll likely experience light sleep, which enhances alertness, sharpens motor learning, and boosts mood.

Power naps are short enough to prevent you from entering deep sleep, thus avoiding the grogginess or disorientation often associated with longer napping.

They are particularly useful for people needing a quick recharge, like students or professionals, and can be easily incorporated into a busy day.

Did You Know: NASA suggests 26 minutes is the ideal time period for a power nap.

90 Minutes: The Replacement Nap

Of course, a power nap won't always cut it, especially if you've missed out on a lot of sleep or sleep deprived.

A nap that lasts around 90 minutes is called a "full cycle nap" or a "REM nap." This type of nap is often suggested for obtaining maximum benefits.

These naps are long enough to allow you to go through a complete sleep cycle, including the rapid eye movement (REM) stage associated with dreaming. Full cycle naps can enhance emotional memory, creativity, and procedural memory.

Because they encompass a complete sleep cycle, they are less likely to leave you feeling groggy afterward compared to shorter naps that might end during deeper stages of sleep.

In this case, a longer nap can be more beneficial. Taking a 90-minute nap will give your brain time to go through a full sleep cycle and recoup. Sleeping for too long during the day can become counterproductive, further disrupting your nighttime sleep schedule and leading to insomnia.

When is the Best Time to Take a Nap?

Ideal nap timing for adults is recommended at least eight hours before bedtime. This often translates to napping before 3 p.m. to avoid affecting nighttime sleep quality. Taking longer naps during the day can disrupt your nighttime sleep schedule.

Many people experience a natural inclination to nap after lunch, often called the post-lunch dip. This phenomenon is less about the meal itself and more closely tied to the body's circadian rhythm, our internal 24-hour clock.

This rhythm dictates two main periods of sleepiness: the most significant at night and a secondary one in the early afternoon.

Adjusting your nap time could be helpful if you have trouble sleeping due to an unusual sleep routine. For instance, if you work in shifts, taking a nap before your night shift or scheduling naps during your night shift might be beneficial.

Where to Take a Nap

A comfortable nap setting can help prevent interruptions and awakenings, so a cool, quiet, dark sleep environment is essential to help you fall asleep.

If you work from home and need a brief nap, your bedroom is the best place. The environment in your bedroom is already conducive to sleep. To improve it further, you can install blackout curtains or a white noise machine to block distractions and make sleeping easier during the day.

In an office environment, using accessories such as earplugs or an eye mask to minimize disruptions during nap time can be helpful. Naps should be taken in a quiet space where interruptions are less likely to happen.

Some offices may have designated nap pods or peaceful areas for employees to relax or take a brief restorative nap.

Final Thought

Remember, setting an alarm is crucial in guaranteeing your nap is beneficial and not counterproductive. The length of your nap plays a crucial role in the quality of rest you receive.

How long is a good nap? For a quick energy boost, a power nap is your best bet. However, if you're significantly sleep-deprived and require more substantial rest, a full cycle nap of about 90 minutes can be more restorative.

It's important to strike the right balance in nap duration to maximize benefits and avoid disrupting your regular sleep patterns. Choose your nap length wisely to ensure you wake up refreshed and revitalized.


[1] [1] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?” 24 Mar. 2022. View Resource

[2] Yamada, T., Shojima, N., Yamauchi, T., & Kadowaki, T. (2016). J-curve relation between daytime nap duration and type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome: A dose-response meta-analysis. Scientific reports, 6, 38075. View Study.

[3] American Physical Therapy Association. “CDC: Most Middle and High School Students Don’t Get Enough Sleep.” American Physical Therapy Association, 29 Jan. 2018. View Study.

[4] Cleveland Clinic. “Sleep.” Cleveland Clinic, 19 June 2023. View Resource

[5] Brooks, A., & Lack, L. (2006). A brief afternoon nap following nocturnal sleep restriction: which nap duration is most recuperative?.Sleep, 29(6), 831–840. View Study.

[6] Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D'Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, Malow BA, Maski K, Nichols C, Quan SF, Rosen CL, Troester MM, Wise MS. Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016 Jun 15;12(6):785-6. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.5866. PMID: 27250809; PMCID: PMC4877308.

[7] Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, et al. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40–43