Discover the Best Napping Length for Optimal Benefits
Wondering what’s the best napping length? Read this to find out. Plus, what to consider for a great snooze. And sleep products for the ideal nap environment.
Hey, you nap fan. Are you wondering what the best napping length is to wake up refreshed instead of sluggish? Well, you’re not alone. The pursuit of the perfect siesta is timeless and common across cultures. And rightly so.
For instance, do you know what a siesta is? It's a Spanish custom wherein taking a nap after lunch is an everyday type of thing. And while this might not be the case in offices, it indicates how they value a well-deserved snooze.
The ideal nap is influenced by multiple factors. These include your personal sleep needs, lifestyle, and overall health. Catching 40 winks at the right duration may have a positive impact on your mood, alertness and memory. Plus, it can also lower stress levels.
And while nap length is a key component of your snooze, others matter, too. To be specific, these include timing, nap type and sleep environment.
This article aims to explore each one, including the best nap length. It’s also a deep dive into the concept of napping, and how to optimize your nap to maximize its benefits.
Before we jump into the best napping length, let’s zero in on the science behind naps. Napping, or the act of taking a short sleep during the day (or night if you’re a shift worker) is the body’s way of responding to fatigue.
A standard night of sleep sees your brain cycling through 4 stages repeatedly. A full cycle usually lasts an average of 90 minutes.
Here are the 4 sleep stages:
N1 is when you transition from being wakeful to drifting off. (Both N1 and N2 are considered lighter stages of sleep.)
N2 where your body undergoes subtle changes like a drop in temperature and slower breathing and heart rate
Deep or slow-wave sleep where your body is even more relaxed. Your muscles, pulse and breathing are even slower than in the second stage.
REM sleep (or Rapid Eye Movement) where you dream as your brain becomes more active. You’re unable to move during this stage.
A brief nap of 20 minutes isn’t a full cycle of sleep. You enter only the light sleep stages. And there isn’t enough time to enter the slow-wave sleep or the REM stage. This means you’ll wake up feeling energized and refreshed instead of groggy.
If you nap for too long, you’ll slip into the third or fourth stage. And waking up in either of those means a disrupted sleep cycle. You’ll experience something called sleep inertia when you wake up. This means feeling disoriented, groggy and tired.
However, there are different types of naps with specific durations that may last longer. We’ll discuss them more in detail later on in this article.
Why is nap duration important?
Before we answer this question, we gotta ask you why you’re napping in the first place. How long you should nap depends on your goals.
Do you need an energy boost? Do you need a brain boost to tackle a difficult work task? Are you sleep-deprived from the night before?
Here's a brief look at the different nap durations:
Power naps or 20-minute snoozes let you wake up feeling refreshed and alert without hurting your sleep at night.
While they say power naps can last max 30 minutes, it's possible that you’ll wake up groggy because of the onset of deep sleep.
Hour-long naps may strengthen your ability to remember and retain info. But word of warning: it might lead to sleep inertia.
90-minute naps let you cycle through all sleep stages without causing sleep inertia.
Power napsare good if you need to be more alert and energetic. It may help put you in a better mood. You’ll feel more productive and less prone to mistakes or accidents.
Meanwhile, longer snoozes of 60 to 90 minutes let your body enter the deep sleep phase. This nap length may improve memory and your problem-solving skills. Your creativity gets a boost, too.
For healthy adults, the best nap length is either 20 minutes or 90 minutes. However, the optimal nap lengthvaries based on your age. For example, 1 to 3-year-olds need to nap once in the afternoon for 1 to 3 hours. And some research says an hour-long snooze is recommended for seniors, according to Healthline(1).
So, what’s the secret to the best napping length?
Understanding your body and sleep needs is key. Try experimenting with different nap lengths to find out what works. Remember that you want to snooze long enough to reap its benefits without waking up groggy. You also want a nap length that won’t make it hard to fall asleep in the nighttime.
To summarize, short naps usually won't mess with your nighttime sleep. Why? Your body won’t enter deep sleep stages. However, long naps can if taken late in the day.
Keep in mind, too, that it's not just the duration of the nap that counts. Timing and conditions are just as important. And like the different snooze lengths, there are also various kinds of naps.
Let’s find out what they are in the next section.
What are the different types of naps?
There are several types of naps, each suited for particular needs. You already know what a power nap does. So, here are the rest:
Recovery Nap – Also known as a replacement nap, this 90-minute snooze makes up for lost sleep.
Prophylactic Nap – The type of nap you take if you’re anticipating a sleepless night. It, too, lasts 90 minutes.
Appetitive Nap – This one lasts anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes. Its purpose? Just for the sheer pleasure of napping.
Fulfillment Nap – A nap for kids lasting 30 minutes or more. As a note, younger children need more sleep than grown-ups.
Coffee Nap – This one lasts all of 20 minutes. Believe it or not, it requires coffee. Take a nap immediately after drinking a cup and wake up extra energized when the caffeine kicks in.
Essential Nap – Take this 10- to 90-minute nap when you’re sick.
Now that you know the different lengths and types, let’s move on to the pros and cons of napping.
What’s the positive impact of napping?
Snoozing has a positive effect on your emotional, mental and physical well-being. Some of the key benefits of napping include:
Relaxation – Napping is taking a break from the daily grind. It promotes relaxation and stress relief.
An improved mood – Studies show that naps boost mood.
Reduces fatigue – Snoozing can boost your energy levels.
Improves memory – Research shows that naps enhance memory consolidation, increasing your ability to process and retain information.
What are the potential drawbacks of napping?
While napping has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks. (Bummer, huh.) These include:
Post-Nap Grogginess – As we mentioned earlier, longer naps may cause sleep inertia. This happens when you reach and wake up in the middle of the deep sleep and REM stages.
Nighttime Sleep Issues – Napping too often and late in the day can lead to difficulty falling asleep in the evening.
Masking Sleep Disorders – If you find yourself “needing” to take naps regularly, it may be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder.
How does nap timing affect your health?
The time you decide to nap influences how effective it is. We already mentioned that snoozing too close to bedtime can disrupt your nighttime sleep. On the other hand, napping too soon after waking up might not give you the expected benefits.
But there really is no hard fast rule as to what time is best for you. It all depends on your sleep schedule and lifestyle. Time your naps to when you naturally feel sleepy.
But generally, the best time to nap is in the early afternoon from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. This is the time of day when most people feel their energy dip.
It’s a different story when you work the night shift though. You’ll need to adjust your nap timing. Short naps during your breaks may give you an energy boost for the long night ahead.
What to Consider for a Great Snooze
On top of nap length and timing, there are a couple of other factors to keep in mind for a great snooze.
One is to make sure your nap environment is peaceful. This means it needs to be dark, quiet and cool. The best sleep temperature is 60 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit or in Celsius, 16 to 23 degrees.
Consider, too, a pre-nap routine. If you had an extra busy morning, you’ll need to wind down for your snooze. Meditation, light stretching and a cup of chamomile tea may send you to nap land faster.
In addition, here are tips to make the most out of your nap:
Know your napping purpose – Snooze with intent. It could be you need it for an energy boost or to help you keep focused for the rest of the day.
Set an alarm – If you don’t want to experience sleep inertia, take a nap for as long as you intended.
Timing is key – Early afternoon naps are ideal. Napping after 3:00 p.m. may interfere with your nighttime sleep.
Stick to a nap schedule – If you plan to make napping a daily habit, nap at the same time. Eventually, your brain will start sending cues that it’s time of the day to snooze.
What sleep products help optimize your naps?
Want to take your napping game to the next level? Consider investing in these sleep products:
A Nap Pillow for Snoozing at Work or During Travel
A nap pillow is ideal for a quick and rejuvenating snooze. Especially when you’re at work with nowhere to nap except your desk. So why not consider our version?
Manta Nap Arc
We designed Manta Nap Arc to completely support your head and neck as you snooze. The ergonomic arc design takes the pressure off your arms. (Which you typically use when sleeping on your desk.)
It's easy to adjust. Just pull on the strap to make it higher. Or tug at the G-hook to lower the height.
Unless you’re traveling first class, grabbing a restful snooze isn’t the easiest stunt to pull off. Apart from the noise of fellow passengers and cabin lights, it's just plain uncomfortable. Napping upright can cause your head to bob forward. (Talk about a rude awakening.)
That’s why travel cushions like Manta Travel Pillow can make a world of difference. What makes it unique? Well, you can use it in 4 different ways.
Inflate it easily with just 2 breaths. It’s made from plush microfleece that’s 100% machine-washable. Pack it flat in its convenient pouch. Plus, it has a small side pocket where you can stash stuff like your earplugs and phone.
The travel pillow can be customized 4 ways: The Cradle, Nod, Lock and Hug. Each of these gives comfort and support in specific ways. Learn how here.
A Comfortable Sleep Mask That Blocks Light Out by 100%
We know you’re no stranger to the annoying glare of light while trying to take a decent nap. But that isn’t the only reason it's bad for sleep.
Light signals your brain that it's time to be up and about. And that’s why darkness is so important. It prepares your body and brain for bed, telling them to wind down. It also promotes the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
So it's no wonder that sleep masks are some of the most popular sleep products out there. Most Manta Sleep masks are designed to block out light completely. Did we mention they’re also comfy and adjustable?
To start, why not try our original?
Manta Sleep Mask
“It is amazing how well I sleep when it is complete darkness! I can pretty much sleep anywhere and at any time with the Manta sleep mask, including the bedrooms at work where there is really no proper curtains.” — Nikolai Q.
Manta Sleep Mask offers 100% blackout and works for any sleep position. It’s made with soft and breathable materials. It has a fully adjustable and durable head strap made with triple-reinforced elastic.
The convex, tapered eye cups keep the pressure off your eyes and lashes. They, too, are fully adjustable. Position them anywhere with the strap’s interior for a custom fit.
A 100% Blackout Sleep Mask That Masks Background Noise
Are you one for sleeping with white noise? Then a Bluetooth sleep mask with headphones does double duty. It’ll block out light while delivering soothing sleep sounds to help you nap better.
And we don’t mind saying that Manta SOUND Sleep Mask is one of the best ones out there.
Manta SOUND Sleep Mask
“I just got mine today. I've wanted one for months, and finally was able to spend the $. I put it on for a mid-day nap because I HAD to try it! Wow. Wow wow wow! This is far and away leagues better than any cheapo mask off Amazon or anywhere else! I don't feel the speakers lying on my side. No fussing with the charging port. No moving speakers. No obnoxious voices when turning it on or off. The quality of the materials is far and away better too! I'm looking forward to using it in full tonight!” — Gillian S.
This sleep mask with built-in headphones connects to any Bluetooth-compatible device. Its intuitive design lets you turn it on or off and control the volume with ease. The speakers are adjustable. Simply tug on the tabs to move it further or closer to your ears.
The 2-layer head strap is fully adjustable with a 100% machine-washable inner strap. It comes with C-shaped eye cups that have a smart air bubble that compresses and expands as you switch sides. Position the eye cups anywhere on the inner strap to get a personal fit.
Soft and Moldable Earplugs to Keep Noise Out
So maybe you’re not into any type of noise even if it helps with sleep. The best option is a pair of comfy earplugs. Slip them on anywhere and enjoy the sound of silence.
“These earplugs are made of soft foam so they don't cause any discomfort and pain when wearing them. I also like the how the bright color makes it easy to find them if they fall out of the box or when I roll around too much when sleeping. I use these exclusively.” — Skawt01
Manta Earplugs come in a pack of 10 pairs. They block out 32 decibels of noise. And they’re not just for sleeping, either. Use them to block out the sound of heavy machinery or while watching a live concert.
The earplugs are made from soft slow-release foam for comfort. They have an ergonomic bell-shape design to fit your ear canals. You can also mold them to get a more personal fit.
FAQs On Napping
How long should you nap?
The best nap length differs from person to person. But a general rule of thumb is it should be either 20 or 90 minutes to avoid sleep inertia.
How long is a power nap?
A power nap lasts 20 minutes. It can give you a quick energy and alertness boost without causing grogginess and disorientation.
When should I nap?
The best time to nap is when your energy levels dip in the afternoon. For most, this happens between 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Why am I tired after I nap?
This happens when you take longer than usual naps. Or you wake up while your brain and body are in the deeper sleep stages. This is known as sleep inertia. Another reason you could be waking up tired is you’re sleep-deprived.
To conclude, the best napping length is one that suits your sleep needs, lifestyle and daily schedule. It’s also about knowing what you want to gain from snoozing. Once you’ve nailed that down, choose the right nap length and type to maximize its specific benefits. All these are key to knowing your best nap duration.
Don’t forget to consider the timing of your nap and the right sleep environment to ensure a great snooze. And if you’re napping in a noisy and bright environment, don’t be afraid to use the right sleep products.
Namely, a sleep mask that’s effective at blocking out 100% of light. A nap pillow that’ll help you snooze even when you’re at work or traveling. And finally earplugs to block out noise.
Your best napping length can be the ultimate game-changer for your productivity and overall health. So experiment with the different nap durations to see what works best. And follow the napping tips we mentioned earlier in this article to optimize your snoozes.
Let us know if this article helped you find your best napping length. Drop a comment below and feel free to share your own nap tips with other readers.
(1) “Everything You Need to Know About the Benefits of Napping” Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-i-nap. Accessed 08 September 2023.
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