Napping has been mocked as a form of laziness for years. We are "caught" or "held to sleep on the turn." But recently it gained new respect; thanks to science, day dozing improves both mental acuity and general wellbeing. A variety of recent findings have found that naps increase alertness, inspiration, mood, and productivity later in the day.
A 60-minute sleep increases alertness for up to 10 hours. Pilot data indicate a 26-minute "Nasa" sleep in flight (when the aircraft is loaded with a copilot) increases its performance by 34% with average alertness of 54%. A Harvard study released last year found a 45-minute nap that boosts memory and learning. Napping decreases depression and lowers the risk of heart and stroke, diabetes, and an unhealthy gain of weight.
It's better to have even the smallest sleep than nothing. Research in Düsseldorf in 2008 found that sleep starts to induce active memory processes that remain successful even though there are just a few minutes of sleep. And a British report last year indicated that knowing that a nap would come was enough to reduce blood pressure.
Naps make you better, safer, brainier. However, to learn how best to sleep, you have to learn your body.
How long should you rest for?
You need to understand the possible components when planning the ideal nap. Electrical activity in the brain goes through a five-phase period during sleep.
A 20 minute quick catnap afternoon primarily leads to Stage 2 sleep, increasing alertness and attention, enhancing mood, and sharpening motor skills. You should drink a cup of coffee before you sleep to raise alertness when waking. Caffeine takes 20 to 30 minutes to take effect, but when you wake, it can kick in. Sleep can also be achieved with fast eye movement (REM) for up to 45 minutes that improve imaginative thinking and sensory perception.
If you need to jump into action after dozing, limit your nap to 45 minutes or less. You could slip into slow-wave sleep otherwise. When we wake from this point, sleep inertia, slumber, and disorientation, which lasts half an hour or more.
But at least 90 minutes, you may want to take a long nap. All of us sleep less than an hour and a half a night than we should. New research reveals that the sleepless brain is alternating between usual operation and whole defects or errors, a risky state of sluggish reaction, and a foggy mind. Sound familiar?
Naps between 90 and 120 minutes typically consist of all stages, including REM and deep slow-wave sleep, to help clear the head, strengthen the memory, and get back missed sleep. Longer naps generate more REM sleep in the morning, during slow-wave sleep in the afternoon. A nap long enough to include a full sleep cycle will limit sleep inertia for at least 90 minutes by allowing you to wake from REM sleep.
Why Do We Weed To Nap?
Most species sleep during the day for brief stretches. Humans have consolidated sleep for a long time, but our bodies are conditioned for two intensive cycles of sleepiness: from about 2 am to 4 am and from 1 pm to 3 pm in the afternoon. It is not due to heat or a heavy lunch (it does happen, even when we don't eat) but to a calming afternoon period of our physiology, which reduces our time for responsiveness, memory, balance, mood, and alertness.
You're a Lark or an Owl!
It helps to decide the right time to snack by understanding the "chronotype." What time would you wake up and sleep if you had the opportunity to schedule your day? If you are a lark who wakes early at 6 am and sleeps at about 9 pm or 10 pm, you can know like your nap is around 1 pm or 1.30 pm.
If you want to go to bed after midnight or 1 am and wake at about 8 am or 9 am, the "sleep trap" will open later in the afternoon, close to 14.30 or 3 pm.
Horváth K, et al. (2015). Napping facilitates word learning in early lexical development. DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12306
Li J, et al. (2016). Afternoon napping and cognition in Chinese older adults: Findings from the China health and retirement longitudinal study baseline assessment. DOI: 10.1111/jgs.14368
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Napping: Do's and don'ts for healthy adults. mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319
Milner CE, et al. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x
Naps. (2016). kidshealth.org/en/parents/naps.html
Oversleeping: Bad for your health? (n.d.). hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-better/oversleeping-bad-for-your-health
What is “normal” sleep? (2016). ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279322/