How Long Should You Nap?

Tara Youngblood Oct 04, 2022

Napping on couch

You’ve taken that 15-minute power nap right before a certain class or test. You’ve probably even caught some midday shut-eye at work once in a while following a big lunch. You’ve snoozed for 30 minutes or an hour at times, slept the day away as your parents used to tell you, and 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 functions, while others can actually make sleepiness worse.

When timed right, a nap can help you overcome all the dreaded signs of tiredness such as drowsiness and lack of focus. So, how long should you nap? Before we dive into optimal nap lengths, let’s start with the definition of a nap.

What is a Nap, Really?

A nap is a short period of sleep typically taken during the daytime. Naps supplement our longer sleep cycles and allow us to combat fatigue and catch up on sleep when needed. [1] Ultimately, napping can help us to feel more refreshed, refocused, and recovered.

Being one of a small number of mammals considered to be monophasic sleepers, humans have one long sleep period per 24 hours instead of numerous shorter ones. Most mammals are polyphasic sleepers, getting their rest throughout the day and night with short periods of sleep—hence catnap. Turns out our dogs aren’t actually as lazy as we thought they were.

Despite this, babies and young children require naps daily, and 34% of adults in the U.S. report taking regular naps. [2] And on top of that, some countries take naps daily as a ritual.

Just look at many places in Southern Europe and Latin America, where people nap—or take a siesta—every day after lunch.

Read More: Naps; The Benefits and So Much More

Best Nap Lengths

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. [5] When you sleep at night, these stages repeat several times, giving your body and brain time to recharge.

When you nap, you don’t always benefit from getting a full sleep cycle because entering into deep sleep and REM can actually make it difficult to wake up, putting you at risk of feeling more 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:

The Power Nap (20-30 minutes)

According to popular belief, the best nap length ranges between 20 and 30 minutes, referred to as the power nap, which you may know as the 15-minute power nap.

If you’re feeling groggy after a bad night’s sleep and need a little boost to get you through the afternoon, power naps can help. They give you enough time to fall into a light sleep without entering into a deep sleep, and you avoid the potential of waking up feeling drowsier than before.

Power nap benefits include better concentration, mood boost, and even improved motor skills.

The Replacement Nap (90 minutes)

Of course, a power nap won’t always cut it, especially if you’ve missed out on a lot 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 and leading to insomnia.

Sleep Needs by Age

Nap lengths also vary by age. Babies and children require more sleep than adults due to the simple fact that they are still growing and developing. Longer or more frequent naps are normal for these age groups.

Let’s take a look at professional recommendations for sleep for children [6] and adults [7] to compare.

Recommendations for Sleep

  • Infants aged 4-12 months: 12-16 hours per day

  • Children 1-2 years: 11-14 hours per day

  • Children 3-5 years: 10-13 hours per day

  • Children 6-12 years: 9-12 hours per day

  • Teenagers 12-18 years: 8-10 hours per day

  • Adults 18-60 years: 7+ hours per night

  • Adults 61-64 years: 7-9 hours per night

  • Adults 65+ years: 7-8 hours per night

Don’t Forget to Set an Alarm

In the end, nap length can make or break the quality of your rest. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up to beat daytime drowsiness, it’s power nap time. If you are lacking sleep and need something more restorative, a 90-minute nap will help. Anything more and you may start to lose the benefits of napping.

Citations/References

[1] Romyn G, Lastella M, Miller DJ, Versey NG, Roach GD, Sargent C. Daytime naps can be used to supplement night-time sleep in athletes. Chronobiol Int. 2018 Jun;35(6):865-868. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2018.1466795. PMID: 30024323.

[2] Taylor, P. (2009, July 29). Nap time. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from View Resource

[3] Dutheil, F., Danini, B., Bagheri, R., Fantini, M. L., Pereira, B., Moustafa, F., Trousselard, M., & Navel, V. (2021). Effects of a short daytime nap on the cognitive performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(19), 10212. View Study

[4] Horne J, Anderson C, Platten C. Sleep extension versus nap or coffee, within the context of 'sleep debt'. J Sleep Res. 2008 Dec;17(4):432-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00680.x. Epub 2008 Oct 14. PMID: 19021851.

[5] Sleep Basics [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic, 2020. View Resource.

[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

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