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How long should I nap: a woman napping on a sofa

Have you ever woken up after a midday nap and felt even more tired than before? Chances are - you have overslept.

But then how long should I nap to be more productive, you might ask? 

Let me give you a brief overview of what scientists and other experts say about sleep cycles and what is the best amount of time to nap.

Also, throughout this article, you can expect to find quite a few interesting facts about famous people napping and tips to sleep better.

Put It Short - How Long Should I Nap?

Well, briefly said, it could be 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. It could also be somewhere between 1,5 to 2 hours!

But why such a big difference? Is it really that hard to answer clearly how long should I nap?

Well, first of all, you need to understand what happens during your sleep. Then it should become clear. The question “How long should I nap?” did not only arise to us, common folk, but also to scientists. Studies show that the best amount of time to nap strongly depends on the stages of sleep.

Stages of Sleep

We, human beings, are governed by the laws of nature. No wonder you feel differently at 3 AM and at 3 PM.  Our brains react to the amount of light and therefore decide when to release melatonin (a hormone that makes us sleepy). That’s why we’re most sleepy at night.

Scientists have researched human sleep quite extensively and found that there are certain stages[1] to our sleep. All of them rotate in around 90-minute intervals. Therefore, different waking times result in different experiences

How long should I nap: sleep cycle stages

Remember the time when someone woke you up and you felt disoriented? That’s probably when you were in a deep sleep stage and were pulled out from it.

And when the amount of time to nap was only 10 - 20 minutes? A lunch break at work, for example. You’ve probably woken up full of energy and ready to climb a mountain, right?

Wake Up In The Initial Stages

The fact is - waking up in the initial stages of the sleep cycle will make you feel most rested, energized and alert. That’s somewhere between 10 to 30 minutes. Though some researchers argue[2] that a 10-minute power nap is the most effective for an afternoon nap. In the end, it really depends from person to person.

Unless you have around 2 hours in the afternoon. Then you could go through a full sleep cycle and boost your memory and creativity as well.

Ask the President

The question "how long should I nap?" could also be asked to many American Presidents. They seem to have been professional nappers.

When in office, B. Clinton had his 15-30 minute power naps, R. Reagan also jokingly admitted that his office chair should be inscribed “Ronald Reagan slept here”,  J.F. Kennedy was often having lunch in bed and napped right after for about 1-2 hours every day. 

How long should I nap: the White House Washington DC

A well-timed nap is a huge boost to your system, but make it too long and you’ll wake up worse than before. That is called sleep inertia - when after a nap you feel disoriented and sluggish.

If you’re still unsure how long should you nap to get the most from it, just experiment different times for yourself and see how you feel. Try switching from 10 minutes to 20, to 30, and you’ll find the best time that suits your system.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

Since it is already clear that if you’re on a tight schedule, the best amount of time to nap is around 10 - 20 minutes. The next question might arise - when should I nap?

Well, according to scientists[3], our brains work best roughly from 10 AM to 2 PM and from 4 PM to 10 PM. Adding the fact that our body drops in temperature in the afternoon, and brains produce a dose of melatonin (remember - a sleep drug from our brains?), it leaves us to say that the best time to nap is somewhere between 2 PM and 4 PM.

So, right after your lunch at work, instead of going for a dose of caffeine from Starbucks, you could embrace that natural gift from your brains and doze off for a minute or two (ten or twenty, that is). 

How long should I nap: man having a nap during lunch break

Do it too late and you risk having a hard time going to sleep at night. Do it too early and you’ll struggle to switch off.

Of course, it doesn't apply to everybody. Some insomniacs, irregular sleepers or geniuses (like Thomas Edison) find it easy to fall asleep anytime during the day.

There’s no strict rule when exactly you should have your afternoon nap. If you need one, you will definitely feel it. Sometime after lunch, you should naturally feel your body going a bit down on energy and your head nodding involuntarily

If you’re full of energy and completely alert - just continue without one. The question “how long should I nap?” has no meaning if one just doesn’t feel like napping. Simply put, don’t force it.

Where Should You Do It?

Obviously, you have to provide your body and brains the best conditions to get the most from your nap. Curtains and a comfy bed would do the work. But not all of us are British Prime Ministers who have their own bedrooms in the Parliament.

Though many giant companies like Google, Nike, NASA already recognize the benefits of a midday nap for their employees. They have quiet rooms or even futuristic looking nap pods to catch a quick snooze or meditate.

You need not ask “how long should I nap?” since the pods have inbuilt automatic 20-minute time trackers.

How long should I nap: napping pod

If you can’t “close the curtains” in your workplace, or lay in your own personal bed or high-tech pod, then consider getting an eye mask for a similar effect. Find some quiet, dark and cool place to lay back and snooze. 

Speaking from personal experience, having your eyes and ears covered greatly increases the effectiveness of a nap. 

Also, if you can’t escape the outer noise - try using “white noise” app or track. It is reported to have soothing and harmonizing properties.

Health Benefits of Napping

There are many great health benefits that regular napping brings: 

  • First of all, it recharges your energy levels and resets your brains. This way you can continue your work as if it’s another day.
  • It also reduces stress and anxiety levels. Nobody wants to work with a person that is constantly freaking out.
  • Furthermore, it increases your mood. If you feel low or irritated, after a good nap you might become another person!
  • Research shows that it also lowers your blood pressure. And as a consequence, reduces the risk of a heart attack.
  • For those who spoil themselves with 2 hours of sleep in the afternoon, it also increases creativity and memory

How long should I nap: happy and rested woman

To put it short, a well-timed nap is a great overall performance and mood booster. But it too can be harmful if done wrongly

Side Effects

While there are truly numerous health benefits of napping, there are side effects, too. Again, it all comes down to how long should a nap be

Sleeping too long will result in you feeling worse. If you already have problems to sleep well at night, these feelings of grogginess can be even more severe and last longer. Also, if you nap too late in the afternoon, chances are - you’ll have trouble falling asleep at night.

How long should I nap: woman can't fall asleep

Otherwise, it seems that if the question “how long should I nap?” is answered and done correctly, no side effects are there to hit you. Just remember - not too long and not too late.

Those Who Are Allowed to Sleep at Work

As mentioned before, there are companies that take their employees’ health seriously and recognize the benefits of a nap. It seems quite a number of them in the US have EnergyPods (spaceship-like chairs) installed in their offices for their employees to have some time off in the afternoon. 

When Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of Huffington Post, collapsed from sleep-deprived exhaustion in 2007, she learned her lesson. Now her company takes great care for their employees’ well-being and has places to nap throughout their offices.

Uber, Google, Procter & Gamble, PwC and many more adopted similar measures, mainly - nap pods, in their offices.

Though nothing beats the good ol’ kingsize bed, curtained windows, a butler who wakes you up after a certain time,  presenting watered whiskey and a cigar in your workplace (a reference to W. Churchill). 

How long should I nap: butler standing, ready to serve

Though, honestly, would you ever come out of that soft, comfy bed if it was in your workplace...?

I feel it takes a great deal of willpower, for those who work from home, to not fall into the trap of their bed. Unless it already has its springs sticking out from the surface.

Back to the main topic, if speaking about famous people napping habits, there are quite a few fun examples of how great minds sleep... 

Great Minds Napped Too

Those who worked a lot, had many responsibilities, ideas and tasks at hand, almost certainly napped throughout their day. Take Albert Einstein for example. To fuel his ingenious brains, he napped regularly. And same as another genius Salvador Dali, he used a technique called hypnagogic nap.

He was sitting in his favorite armchair and holding a small object, such as a pencil or key, between his fingers. When it fell, it made a noise that woke him up, thus stopping him from entering into the second stage of a sleep cycle. It is said to be effective in activating your imagery and sensation parts of your brain.

Another unusual character is Napoleon Bonaparte, a powerful XVIII century French Emperor. It is reported that he had insomnia and sometimes literally didn’t sleep for days. He was regaining his energy through frequent naps. And sometimes in the most unexpected places... like in the middle of a battle with numerous cannon shots booming all around

How long should I nap: Napoleon Bonaparte sleeping in the battle

Leonardo Da Vinci, a famous Renaissance artist from Italy, was probably the first one to take up the “I’ll sleep when I die” moto. He got used to what is called polyphasic sleep. Every four hours he slept for about 15 minutes, thus, in the end, totaling to only around 2 hours of sleep every day(Maybe that was the secret to his ingenuity?)

These people did not ask “how long should I nap?”. They just did whatever worked for them, whenever they felt like it

Nowadays we have science to back the best amount of time to nap. And as I’ve reviewed before, it is very similar to what those geniuses did back in the old days.

Tips and Tricks

If you want to become a pro-napper, answering yourself how long should I nap is not enough. You’ll have to learn some tricks.

I’ve gathered a bunch and laid them down here for you to choose:

  • President B. Clinton reportedly gave a tip of how to doze off more quickly - just imagine a big hole in the back of your head and focus on that.
  • You might as well try these techniques if you’re having trouble to fall asleep. 
  • If you’re planning to have a short power nap and happen to like coffee, drink a cup before you sleep. It might sound contradictory, but actually, caffeine starts to work only after around 20 - 30 minutes - just in time you wake up.

How long should I nap: man holding a cup of coffee

  • Of course, sleeping in a huge bed with a soft mattress is great, no one's arguing about that. But to tell you the truth, it really isn’t great for a short nap. Why? Simply because it makes waking up much much harder. Who would ever light-handedly give up on this comfort and warmth?
  • If you’re still unsure of how long should you nap, then try experimenting with different times every day and putting down your feelings on paper right after you wake up. Quickly enough you will be able to choose your best amount of time to nap. 
  • Use a blanket. Your body temperature falls down in the afternoon and you might get a bit cold.
  • Wear an eye mask and earplugs. Seriously, the darker and quieter it is, the better your sleep will be.

How long should I nap: businessman wearing an eye-mask

Well, having all these tricks in your pocket, soon enough you will be able to put a new title to your CV - “the professional napper”.

Conclusion

By now you should have a pretty clear picture of how long should you nap and what are the best conditions for that. 

In general, the question “how long should I nap?” is commonly answered “20 minutes”. But it might slightly vary from person to person. 

Napping time has a scientifical backing. If you don’t want to feel terrible - don’t wake yourself up from a deep sleep.

To put it short, listen to your body, experiment with times, learn from experience and if possible - adjust your surroundings.

And for those "extras": if you happen to have a whole bedroom in your office, consider having one of these mattresses to improve your quality of sleep. Just mark my words - it will be difficult to get back to your work


Scientific References
✓ Fact Checked

1. Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al.: 'Neuroscience. 2nd edition'

2. Amber Brooks, PhD, Leon Lack, PhD: 'A Brief Afternoon Nap Following Nocturnal Sleep Restriction: Which Nap Duration is Most Recuperative?'

3. Pablo Valdez: 'Circadian Rhythms in Attention'


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FAQ

How long should I nap?

It is commonly agreed that the best amount of time to nap is around 20 minutes. It's enough to get rest without falling into the deeper stages of sleep. If you wake up from a deep sleep, you will most likely feel groggy and tired.

When is the best time to nap?

The best napping time is in the afternoon between 1 PM and 4 PM. It is because your body physically starts to lower the temperature and produce melatonin (a “sleeping hormone”) and you naturally feel sleepy. If you nap later than 4 PM, you will probably have difficulty falling asleep at night.

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are created mostly from polyurethane and have additional chemicals added that increase its viscosity and density. It’s also often called “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. In order to create the air movement and let your body “breath” while you sleep, it has open foam bubbles. Memory foam mattresses are created in a way to adapt to your body curves and to also recover their original shape after you get up. Therefore, this kind of top mattresses offer you the feeling as if is created specifically for you.

Do top rated mattresses offer a money-back guarantee? Is there a catch?

All of the top mattress brands offer a money-back guarantee. The free trial usually starts from 90 to 100 nights, and if you don’t like the mattress, you can simply give it back. The majority of best mattress providers will not only give your money back but will also come to get it for free. If the mattress provider is reputable, there won’t be any catch - everyone understands that you have to try the mattress before knowing if it fits you.

What is off-gassing? Is it poisonous?

Off-gassing refers to the odor which comes from a new mattress. It’s the process that happens when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) leak out of the mattress foam into the air. Those chemicals include both human-made and natural components, including formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Top rated mattresses will have zero or very minimal off-gassing. Many of them are sent to the customer already after the off-gassing. Is it dangerous, though? Even though the smell can be unpleasant, there’s usually only a very small amount of chemicals that can do no harm to your health.

How long do top rated mattresses serve?

The durability of a mattress depends on the provider and the quality of the materials used. Usually, you get a 10-year warranty, which will be valid in case of any defects. Normally, mattresses will serve you from 7 to 10 years, or even longer. Thus, when you buy the best mattress, you should take it as a long-term investment.