We’ve all been there. After an early morning and a long day, an afternoon snooze around 5 pm is sometimes just too tempting to resist. But is it the best idea?
The short answer is yes. Although a nap during the day doesn’t exactly make up for a bad sleep the night before, a short nap can improve your mood, performance, and make you more alert. There are actually a few different types of nap;
Planned napping. A planned nap means taking a nap before you get too sleepy. It’s ideal if you know you’re going to have a later night than usual, as it will help prevent you from getting tired too early.
Emergency napping. This sort of nap occurs when you’re suddenly hit with a wave of fatigue, and you’re too tired to continue with whatever task you were doing. This sort of nap is good for combating drowsiness if you’re driving or operating machinery.
Habitual napping. This is when you take a nap at the same time every day. Young children tend to fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon, refreshing them for the rest of the day.
But how long should I nap for?
It’s a big question. You could ask several people and they’d all give you a different answer. To get to the bottom of it, it’s important to know the stages of sleep your body experiences to be able to decide the best length of a nap for you.
There are four stages of sleep; Stage 1 is the lightest sleep range. You’re able to be woken easily, which is why it’s best to sleep in a dark space with little to no noise. That means no falling asleep watching tv! Stage 2 is when your body temperature decreases, preparing you to enter deep sleep. It’s harder to wake up in this stage. Stage 3 is when you fall into a deep sleep. This is the most restorative stage and usually occurs around 35 minutes after you first fall asleep. After this, your body enters into REM sleep, Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This stage of sleep tends to occur at intervals throughout your sleep at night and is when you have dreams, bodily movements, and faster pulse and breathing.
Considering these sleep stages, the most effective naps are around 20 minutes long, or 90 minutes long, depending on what sort of time you have to nap. Sleeping less than 30 minutes will mean you wake up before you enter Stage 3 because waking up during Stage 3 sleep or REM sleep often leaves you feeling groggy and lethargic. A 90-minute nap allows your body to go through each stage in a full cycle, leaving you refreshed when you wake up.
Making sure you time your nap right is the key to a good nap. Set an alarm to make sure you don’t go over the time and fall into Stage 3 sleep, as waking up during this stage will make your nap relatively pointless. Waking up during Stage 2 will give you the boost of energy you need to get through the rest of your day.