The Benefits of Naps, Drawbacks & More

Tara Youngblood Aug 26, 2022

Benefits of naps

Cavepeople were the first to take them. Your cat is probably in the middle of one right now. And you’ve thought about taking one ever since you ate that big lunch.

Naps have been around for centuries, and if you're looking for a way to relax or you’re possibly sleep-deprived, you might consider taking one.

Before you decide on a relaxing nap, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to make the most out of a quick snooze.

In this article, we'll discuss the following:

What are Naps?

Naps are brief periods of sleep taken during one’s regular wake hours. Catching up on sleep, preparing for lack of sleep, or just needing to rest are various reasons people take a nap

But people don’t normally ask for the definition of a nap. They do, however, ask if naps are good for a person or offer any health benefits. Keep reading to learn about who needs them, how long they should last, the benefits of naps, and what drawbacks can occur.

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Energized with deep sleep

Nap vs. Sleep

Naps do not enter into the deeper stages of sleep, such as the REM cycle. Since naps do not last as long as sleep, you'll obtain the benefits of resting but without the disorientation of deep sleep.

Did You Know: Thomas Edison would nap at different locations throughout this property from his labs, library, and workbench. He would even nap under his work desk and in unique places such as under a tree for up to an hour, occasionally three times a day.

The Benefits of Naps?

Why do some people continue to nap regularly? Aside from catching up on sleep, taking a short nap offers many benefits for your mental and physical health.

Below are a few benefits they can provide you and your body.

Improves Your Memory

Your body and brain function best with sleep, so it only makes sense that your brain will store memories better if you’re well-rested. Individuals who take power naps during the middle of the day are more likely to remember essential things from earlier that day.

Better Focus and Learning

It can be challenging to learn or focus when you're exhausted and burnt out from the long day. Taking a power nap in the middle of the day can improve your focus while eliminating that sleepiness so you can excel, whether it's school, work, or whatever you're doing.

Naps improves your mood

Improves Mood

Not getting enough sleep? Your body could be telling you it needs more. Naps are a great way to lower stress and help boost your mood. Also, well-rested people will be able to regulate their emotions better. Additionally, they can increase productivity, enhance creativity, and boost problem-solving. [1]

Reduces Stress

Taking the time out of your day to rest is important for reducing stress. Napping is the perfect way to relax and lower your heart rate. Plus, when you wake up, you’ll have a clearer mind for your work.

Other Benefits Include:

  • Relaxes your mind and body
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Encourages creativity
  • Regulates emotions

The Negative Effects of Napping

While there are numerous health benefits of naps, there are also some disadvantages.

These obstacles are usually avoidable if you take our advice below.

Sleep Inertia

The chances are that you’ve woken up from a long nap at some point in your life, and felt groggy and disoriented. This is called sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia often happens if it’s longer than 20 minutes and the person falls into a deeper sleep. It can also be described as post-nap fatigue.

If you want to take a nap , but you don’t want that groggy feeling afterward, consider taking one that lasts 10 to 30 minutes long. If you’re concerned about sleeping longer, setting an alarm to wake you up after 20 minutes or less, will make you feel well-rested and more focused.

Nighttime Sleep Issues

Some people find that napping during the day causes insomnia at night, a common sleep disorder. This can be from taking one too late in the day or napping for too long. If you find yourself having this issue, avoid taking them late in the afternoon or lasting longer than 20 minutes.

When Should You Consider a Nap?

Try to keep your nap early enough in the day that you’ll be able to sleep that night but late enough to benefit from it. Many people feel that early afternoon, from 2 to 3 p.m., is the perfect time for a daytime nap to get a few minutes of rest.

A quick nap can help you feel more alert and improve your mood and performance at work. However, napping later in the day may make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. If you regularly experience difficulties sleeping, it’s best to avoid daytime napping altogether.

Different Types of Naps

People have different sleeping and resting requirements. Some can work hours without getting tired, while others get tired quickly. Various factors affect this, one of which is the amount of sleep the body needs. We’ll discuss several types of naps, each with various reasons and results, to help you better understand the differences.

The different types of naps

Power Nap

Naps that end before you reach deep sleep are referred to as power naps. Also known as recovery naps, they are quick, usually between 10 to 20 minutes, and can improve a person’s productivity for the rest of the day. They compensate for sleep loss. You will likely feel tired or sluggish if they are longer than a half hour.

30-Minute Naps

If you're sleep-deprived, taking a nap may not be the best idea. You may feel more tired and less alert than before you went to sleep. This is because when you're sleep deprived, your body is more likely to enter deep sleep (also known as slow wave sleep) when you're woken up. This leads to a state of sluggishness and disorientation called sleep inertia.

You will not see any cognitive benefits from a short nap that only includes light sleep. You need at least a few minutes of deep sleep to get those benefits. [2] Additionally, research has shown that if they include deep sleep, not REM sleep, naps will improve declarative memory tasks but will not enhance procedural memory tasks. [3]

Replacement Naps

Naps can help make up for lost sleep and should be long enough to go through a full sleep cycle. A 90-minute nap may be appropriate if you're sleep-deprived and tired. This will help you feel refreshed and more alert and prevent you from waking up in deep sleep.

90-Minute Naps

A full sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, which allows you to spend time in each stage of sleep (light, deep, and REM, in that order). If you’re sleep deprived, napping for 90 minutes and cycling through every stage of sleep is the best way to feel rested and rejuvenated.

Prophylactic Nap

If you know you'll be awake for a long period of time, taking a nap beforehand can improve your performance. During a long nap, the brain can enter deeper sleep stages, reducing the pressure to sleep. These naps, taken in advance of sustained wakefulness, are called prophylactic naps.

This nap usually happens before a night shift and can last for a few hours. The key is to sleep before the period of sleep deprivation. Taking prophylactic naps can help keep you alert and focused.

Read More: What Are the Different Types of Sleep Stages

Fulfillment Nap

Fulfillment naps are often scheduled throughout the day and are typically part of an infant and toddler's everyday routine. But they can occur in children of all ages, adults, and athletes. They usually last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, allowing the person to achieve physical relaxation without the feeling of waking up tired.

Essential Nap

An essential nap is a good option when you're rundown or sick, and your body desires extra energy to fight off illness. Additionally, they are meant to help improve your mood and are often recommended for most people with low motivation or depression. This five-minute nap is short but sufficient in making you feel more optimistic and better overall.

Appetitive Nap

For those who enjoy napping, this type can help improve your energy and mood upon waking. They often tend to be less than 30 minutes and are comparable to a form of meditation to calm the mind without actual sleep. Results can increase work performance and be less tired.

Tired napping

How Long Should You Nap?

Are you wondering, "How long should a nap last to wake up refreshed?" You're not alone. Typically, the answer is around 90minutes. But with a limited amount of time due to our busy lives, including work, school, or other activities, 30 minutes can be a great choice.

More extended naps often have certain disadvantages, such as insomnia and sleep inertia. If you're napping because of long working shifts, sleep deprivation, needing to catch up on sleep, or perhaps fighting an illness, the amount of time can play a major role. If battling an illness, it may be best to let your body rest as long as it needs and naturally wake up.

Sleeping Tip: If you've found some free time and want to nap, you should set an alarm to ensure you're not sleeping too long.

Time of the Day

When thinking about taking a nap, it's important to consider the time of the day. For example, you wouldn't want to take a long one before going to bed, making it difficult to fall asleep.

Studies have shown that the best time to take a nap is early to mid-afternoon. This is the typical time when people tend to see a decline in alertness and energy. [4]

Sleeping Tip: Ideally, they should be as close as possible to the midpoint between your typical wake and bedtimes.

As we mentioned earlier, finding time can be challenging. What's the next best thing? Head outside and enjoy the sunlight. Doing so will help you feel more energized as your body slows melatonin production.

Who Takes Naps?

If you couldn't remember the last time you had one, you might wonder who even has the time to nap. Aside from children, it’s pretty standard for healthy adults too.

Did You Know? Chronotype can significantly influence who is more driven to take naps. It's vital to understand and identify your chronotype and sleep cycle. Chronotype is the inherent timeline you should follow for sleeping.

Child napping

Babies and Children

Babies, toddlers, and children are regular nappers because sleep plays a significant role in a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development. Hence, they need extra sleep during the night. Most infants and toddlers get enough sleep at night, but they typically have 2-3 daytime naps, while toddlers still take 2 naps, but can drop to one by 18 months.

What Age Do Children Stop Napping?

While they are important for a child’s development, eventually, they’ll grow out of them and get sufficient rest at night. So, it’s necessary to note that the more youthful, the more sleep they’ll need.

Infants naturally spend most of the day sleeping, while toddlers will only nap once a day. Once a child reaches seven years old, most children shouldn’t need to take a regular nap.

That’s not to say older children and teenagers don’t need one occasionally, but a daily one doesn’t need to be incorporated into their schedule.

Napping for Adults

While adults don’t need them as often as children, about one-third of adults will take one regularly. It may not surprise you if you’re part of that statistic, but many adults can’t find the time or don’t enjoy it.

Common Post-Nap Feelings

Below are the most common feeling after waking up: [5]

Common Post-Nap Feelings

  • Relaxed: 33%

  • Happy: 19%

  • Energized: 17%

  • Confused: 15%

  • Groggy: 12%

Creating the Best Experience

If you’re going to take a nap, you want to plan it just right to get the most benefits. This includes a restful location and the best time for your nap.

Napping may be difficult if you’re not in a comfortable environment such as your home. People tend to get better sleep in a dark and quiet atmosphere that’s a few degrees cooler than room temperature.

Whether you're napping or sleeping, you deserve to be comfortable and wake up feeling well-rested. Below are some tips to make it the best experience:

Optimize The Sleep Environment: Sometimes, it can be challenging to have the ideal environment. It’s much easier to fall asleep in a cool, comfortable, quiet, and dark room. But a comfortable chair can work too.

Short and Sweet: Keep them around 20 minutes. That’s enough time to boost your cognitive performance and energy. As we discussed earlier, longer naps tend to make people feel groggy and tired when waking up. Set the alarm to help you limit your time to no more than 30 minutes.

Schedule: If you take a nap regularly, it might be best to take one around the same time each day.

Sleep Kit: A sleep kit can be helpful, including a small pillow, sleep mask, and earplugs. They can help you feel more relaxed and block out the sunlight and noise.

Final Thoughts

Naps can improve our mental health, productivity, and immunity. To get the most benefit from a nap, keep it short (20-30 minutes) and use the same sleeping environment you would at night. A gentle alarm clock or some pre-nap caffeine can help you wake up feeling refreshed.

Now that you know the benefits, the different types, the typical length, and the best time of day, you should take extra time each day to try and take a power nap without feeling guilty. The benefits certainly outweigh the disadvantages, especially regarding your overall health.

Citations

[1] Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18(2), 272–281. View Study

[2] Mitsuo Hayashi, PhD, Naoko Motoyoshi, BA, Tadao Hori, PhD, Recuperative Power of a Short Daytime Nap With or Without Stage 2 Sleep, Sleep, Volume 28, Issue 7, July 2005, Pages 829–836, View Study

[3] TUCKER, M., HIROTA, Y., WAMSLEY, E., LAU, H., CHAKLADER, A., & FISHBEIN, W. (2006). A daytime nap containing solely non-REM sleep enhances declarative but not procedural memory. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 86(2), 241–247. View Study

[4 ] Slama H, Deliens G, Schmitz R, Peigneux P, Leproult R. Afternoon nap and bright light exposure improve cognitive flexibility post lunch. PLoS One. 2015 May 27;10(5):e0125359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125359. PMID: 26016658; PMCID: PMC4446306.

5] Burke, T. M., Scheer, F. A. J. L., Ronda, J. M., Czeisler, C. A., & Wright, K. P. (2015). Sleep inertia, sleep homeostatic and circadian influences on higher-order cognitive functions. Journal of Sleep Research, 24(4), 364–371. View Study

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