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Tuesday, October 10, 2023

How to Nap Your Way to a Better Life!

Taking a nap can have a host of benefits, but you have to do it in the right way, studies show. 


You may start feeling tired in the afternoon. An energy downturn is normal between about 1 pm and 4 pm for most people. Should you take a nap? Absolutely, according to experts. Whether you’re feeling sleep-deprived from the night before or you experience a daily dip in energy, napping can help. 

In fact, napping has many benefits:
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Better mood
  • Improved athletic performance, such as quicker reaction time 
  • More alertness
  • Relaxation
  • Decreased risk of dying from heart attack or stroke
  • Better memory of something just learned

Who knew that something that can seem so unproductive is exactly the opposite? But experts say that timing your nap can make the difference between waking up refreshed or groggy. 

“Data shows 20 minutes is optimal for our health and can increase alertness and performance in the afternoon,” says Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford and author of “Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock, and How It Can Revolutionize Your Sleep and Health”. 

Most scientists recommend naps last between 10 and 20 minutes, to avoid going into deep sleep. But if you need more rest than that, aim for 90 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to cycle back into light sleep, from which you’ll awaken more easily and in an alert state. 

Four Sleep Stages

  1. Stage 1 is when you have just drifted off to sleep, when the body begins to relax and your brain slows down. You can awaken easily and quickly. It lasts from one to seven minutes.
  2. Stage 2 lasts from 10 to 25 minutes. Your body temperature goes down, muscles relax and breathing and heart rate slow. This stage is crucial for solidifying memories.
  3. Stage 3 is for deep sleep, and it lasts 20 to 40 minutes. Your pulse slows down and your brain switches to delta waves. This is when your body repairs tissue, bone, muscle and the immune system. You may be difficult to wake in stage 3 sleep, and you’ll feel groggy.
  4. Stage 4 is characterized by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that starts off at just a few minutes long, but increases throughout the night until it’s nearly an hour long by morning. Your brain activity increases, and your body is temporarily paralyzed while your eyes dart around under closed lids. This is when the majority of your dreams occur. It’s an important stage for brain cognition and creativity. Waking during Stage 4 will result in a feeling of “brain fog” rather than rested alertness.

Sleep researcher Matthew Walker cautions that naps shouldn’t interfere with nighttime sleep. Avoid napping if you have insomnia or take a long time to go to sleep, because naps could make those conditions worse. 

For most of us, it helps to avoid napping after 3 pm, and to set an alarm for 10 to 20 minutes so we don’t oversleep. Sleeping too much during the day can interfere with our ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly at night. Research also shows that night owls tend to benefit more from naps than early risers. 

Not sure if you’ll like napping? The only way to find out is to give napping a try!