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How Long Should I Nap?

A nap might be just what you need to refresh your mind and body during the day. You might be wondering, “How long should I nap to feel refreshed?” The answer can vary depending on several factors, such as your sleep schedule and your body’s circadian rhythm. Your perfect nap could last for just a few minutes or be over an hour long.

woman taking nap

How Long Should I Nap: 10 Guidelines for Taking Effective Naps

  1. Consider your sleep schedule
  2. Make sure you actually need a nap
  3. Short naps should be no more than 30 minutes
  4. Long naps should last about 90 minutes
  5. Don’t nap after 4 p.m.
  6. Avoid napping if you have insomnia
  7. Avoid naps (or adjust them) if they leave you feeling worse
  8. Turn off electronics
  9. Don’t forget the alarm
  10. Give yourself time to re-energize

National Nap Day falls on March 9th, but every day can be a good day for a nap, even if you got a good night’s sleep. Your ideal nap can prevent the feeling of sleep deprivation and can even help you sleep better at night. Nap time, for most people, is an excellent way to squeeze in a few more minutes of shut-eye during the day when they need more energy than a cup of coffee provides.

How long of a nap should I take?

Everybody is different, so the answer isn’t as straightforward as it seems. But one thing is certain — napping for hours is more like sleeping rather than napping, and it could interfere with your sleep cycle in a negative way. Knowing how to take naps properly lets you maximize nap time to feel more rested, boost alertness, and help you stay awake during the day.

Why Do Naps Make Me More Tired?

woman waking up from a nap tired

Napping doesn’t work the same for everyone. While some people ask, “How long should I nap?” others are left wondering, “Why does a power nap leave me feeling sleep deprived?” You might find that a day nap only boosts your sleepiness levels rather than giving you a burst of energy.

That’s usually because you may not be napping correctly or with the right nap duration. Most people have their own sweet spot for naps. This the timeframe when your nap makes you feel more rested when you wake up. So, the question to ask yourself is, “How long should I nap for energy?”

For some, napping longer than 20 minutes can cause them to feel more tired or interfere with a restful night’s sleep by hindering their ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. However, research shows that some people show improvements in reaction time, cognitive functioning, and energy levels with longer naps.

What Are the Benefits of Napping?

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that more than one-third of United States adults naps, proving that sleeping outside of normal sleep hours isn’t just for babies and toddlers. Apparently, these adults believe that they get at least some benefit from taking naps — and medical experts agree.

Studies show that naps have the power to improve daytime sleepiness, boost learning ability and performance, and increase alertness. Short-term memory may also be improved by napping. Another study from the Asklepieion General Hospital in Greece found that naps may lower blood pressure as much as medication or lifestyle changes.

The National Sleep Foundation also states that naps can have significant benefits for people with narcolepsy or those who need a mental brain break.

How Long Should I Nap: 10 Guidelines for Taking Effective Naps

woman yawning pointing to a clock

Taking effective naps can fuel your brain as you snooze away to leave you feeling rejuvenated when you wake. When done correctly, naps won’t hinder your ability to fall and stay asleep at bedtime.

1. Consider Your Sleep Schedule

First things first: Take into account your sleep schedule before napping, as it can affect your ideal nap time. If you’ve just pulled an all-nighter or didn’t sleep well the night before, you may want to reconsider a nap.

Napping shouldn’t take the place of sleep. Instead, it’s a tool to use when your body needs a refresh. If you stayed up all night or had trouble sleeping last night, it may be best to skip the nap so you can properly fall asleep tonight.

2. Make Sure You Actually Need a Nap

Napping just to nap is a temptation to avoid. You may just be accustomed to napping at a specific time, but your body may not actually need that nap.

If you seem to have trouble falling asleep at night or you struggle to fall asleep for your nap, then your body is probably telling you that a power nap isn’t necessary.

3. Short Naps Should Be No More Than 30 Minutes

You should consider naps like short bursts of sleep. Quick naps can give you a boost of energy when you’re feeling lethargic. When you need a quick pick-me-up, a nap less than 30 minutes long should do the trick. That gives you enough time to catch some ZZZs without overdoing it.

You might even consider trying something called a coffee nap or caffeine nap.

Drink a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea right before you curl up on your bed or nap pods. Caffeine takes about 20-30 minutes to kick in, which will be right around your waking time, leaving you feeling energized when you get up.

4. Long Naps Should Last About 90 Minutes

When you have more time to spare, you can plan on a nap that’s about 90 minutes long to get your energetic juices flowing. A sleep cycle that includes non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), lasts about 90 minutes. You want to avoid completing the next phase, the REM cycle because your body expects to have REM sleep at bedtime.

A 90-minute nap, however, can give you the benefits of deep sleep, which is what your body needs to get more energy.

5. Don’t Nap After 4 P.M.

How late can you take a nap? Many experts agree that you should nap before 4 p.m. to avoid having trouble sleeping at bedtime. You may need to adjust this, however, if you normally wake very early in the morning.

For example, a person who goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up at 3 a.m. may need an earlier nap time than someone who falls asleep at 10 p.m. and wakes at 6 a.m. A good rule of thumb is to avoid napping within 5 to 6 hours before bedtime.

6. Avoid Napping If You Have Insomnia

man suffering from insomnia

Insomnia is one of several common sleep disorders, along with sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Insomnia, like other sleep disorders, causes you to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Unfortunately, napping can make it even more difficult to get a good night’s sleep if you suffer from insomnia, so it’s best to skip naps altogether.

7. Avoid Naps (or Adjust Them) If They Leave You Feeling Worse

You know that period of drowsiness and lethargy you feel in the morning after your alarm goes on? It’s called sleep inertia, and it’s something you want to avoid after an energizing nap. Sleep inertia is the period between waking up and feeling fully awake and alert. During this time, your cognitive functioning and response times are lower than usual.

If your naps leave you feeling this way, you’re either napping too long or your body doesn’t mesh well with naps. Try cutting a few minutes off your normal nap time to see if it helps.

8. Turn Off Electronics

To get a perfect nap, you need to learn how to fall asleep properly by minimizing distractions.

A common sleep distraction is a screen, whether that’s your smartphone, tablet, computer, or TV. Electronics stimulate your brain, making it more challenging to doze off. Turn all electronics off at least one hour before you plan to nap and keep them out of your napping area.

9. Don’t Forget the Alarm

girl reaching for alarm

Setting an alarm before you drift off can prevent you from stressing about not waking up in time, which can cause you to miss most of your nap. Whether it’s a 24-minute timer or a 40-minute timer, your alarm will get you moving and give you peace of mind so you can relax and fall asleep.

Try using a relaxing ringtone or song as your wake-up call to avoid breaking you out of calm mode too quickly.

10. Give Yourself Time to Re-Energize

Always give yourself a few extra minutes after your nap to get back into the swing of things. If you only have one hour before you need to head out the door, you might nap for 30 minutes. You’ll still squeeze in a power nap while getting 15 minutes or so to re-energize your brain.

After napping, you can grab a glass of water and do some stretches to signal to your brain that you’re ready to go.

Does Age Matter?

The best length of time to nap is different for each age group. Babies, toddlers, teenagers, adults, and the elderly all have different needs when it comes to napping.

If you want to know how long your child should nap, you can follow the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The guidelines note the hours of sleep your child should get through age 18, including naps for children from birth to age 5.

How Long Should I Nap?

It’s important to remember that naps don’t work the same for everyone. Experiment with a few different nap times and lengths to determine what works best for your schedule, body, and energy levels.

You can also discuss naps with your doctor, especially if you are having trouble staying awake during the day or struggle with insomnia at night. Your physician will be able to provide a treatment plan that allows you to take a restful nap and get a good night’s sleep.