How to take a proper nap

How to nap
CC BY 2.0 Pixabay

Different kinds of naps serve different purposes; find out what kind of nap you need to make you feel your best.

Naps are a bit counterintuitive. When sleep deprived, logic would suggest that the longer the nap, the more refreshed you'll feel. But sleep is a sly thing and doesn't always play by the rules. How often have you woken up from a nap only to feel more tired than before?

The truth is, the best naps are often short naps. And as the awesome all-things-sleep website, NestMaven, points out, "science and experience have proven time and time again that how long you nap is one of the – if not the – most important factor you need to get right in order to master napping."

After years of groggy naps, I discovered that a 14-minute nap is perfect for me. NestMaven explains that there are three lengths of naps that have distinct benefits; each one is based on the average times it takes a person to cycle through the sleep stages. The 20-minute nap category is my savior; but since the sleep stage lengths are based on averages, adding or subtracting five minutes may be necessary to find that Goldilocks spot.

As described on NestMaven:

20 Minutes: Increase alertness & concentration, Improve mood, Fine-tune motor skills
Short naps of 15-20 minutes are widely believed to be the most beneficial. During this brief period you’re only entering the first two stages of sleep (light sleep), which makes it much easier to wake up and return to your day.

This is good news, since naps of this duration can easily be scheduled into your workday. It also is less likely to interfere with your ability to fall asleep come bedtime.

45 Minutes: Enhance creativity, Improve sensory processing
A 45-minute nap will keep you in the lighter stages of sleep, but you run the risk of drifting into a deeper stage which can leave you feeling disoriented upon waking. However, if timed correctly this longer nap will reap you additional benefits.

This is good news, since naps of this duration can easily be scheduled into your workday. It also is less likely to interfere with your ability to fall asleep come bedtime.

90 Minutes: Clear your mind, Improve memory, Catch up on sleep
If you have the time or are trying to cut back on your sleep debt aim for a longer nap of 90-120 minutes. These naps include all the stages of sleep, and by ensuring you complete the full cycle you will avoid the effects of sleep inertia.

Both deep sleep and REM sleep are essential in providing us with that feeling of rest and restoration quintessential of a good night’s sleep. If you choose to nap in the morning you’ll have more REM sleep, whereas long afternoon naps include greater amounts of slow-wave (deep) sleep.

And because I'm such a fan of the nap, I can't resist sharing this infographic shout-out for some midday shuteye.

For a lot more on napping and sleep in general, visit NestMaven.

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