What’s the Best Nap Length for the Biggest Brain Benefit?
Would you like to know the secret to the perfect nap? Are you wondering the best nap length or the perfect amount of z’s to catch up on some much needed sleep, feel amazing and help your brain function better? We’ve done some research and found some solutions, so if so, please read on!
We all know that children need naps, and if you are a parent, you well know the importance of naps for your kids: a properly timed nap can make or break the rest of the day and everything can go straight down hill if an afternoon nap is missed. Sometimes less sleep can make getting to sleep at be time even more of a struggle. Kids tend to need more sleep than adults however the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep per night – suffice to say, most people in the modern world do not get enough on a regular basis.
In this article, I’ll cover the benefits of napping and the best nap length to experience its benefits.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep plays an absolute vital role in our overall health, and our cells renew and regenerate when our bodies go through sleep cycles. Physically and mentally, the function of sleep helps us heal and work through illness and stress so we can wake up fully functional.
Needless to say, sleep deprivation over time can alter immune function, affecting the body’s immunity and decreasing the efficacy of the killer T cells (important in irradicating disease). Adequate sleep may help fight certain cancers, enhance and protect cardiovascular health, decrease irritability, and can even affect metabolism and weight.
It’s fairly obvious that we need to make sleep – proper sleep that is, a priority in our lives for the sake of our health. It’s often insinuated that those who prioritize sleep are somehow lazy or not driven, but that is clearly not the case. In fact, getting the right amount of sleep seems to help us function much more effectively in our day to day lives, so its well worth the effort to fit it in.
Due to the ethical limits on research on human subject, science really has no specific evidence on just what happens when people lose sleep beyond a few days. The likelihood is, that we simply could not live without it.
Benefits of Napping
For those of us who have the luxury of being able to nap, we know it feels like a wonderful thing – curling up on the couch with a blanket on a blustery day, all cozy and warm – we don’t need science to tell us that, but can it really help recharge our brain? The research says yes.
If we don’t get an adequate amount of sleep at night, a daytime nap just may improve alertness and motor performance. A nap may also help improve reasoning and reaction time, but the best part? A nap could even improve our mood!
What’s the Best Nap Length?
The question remains – how long should we nap? In fact, there are a few optimal nap lengths depending on your available time and desired outcome.
- If you are feeling an afternoon lull and just need a quick refresh in alertness, 10 to 20 minutes is your optimal goal, just a quick recharge to help you get through that last meeting of the day or bout of emails sitting in your inbox.
- Feeling frustrated, stressed or need to remember some important points from a book you are reading, and have a bit more time to kill? A 60 minute nap showed a decrease in impulsivity, a greater tolerance to frustration as well as helped with cognitive memory processing. Some research showed even a small amount of sleep could potentially help reinforce learned material!
- Overwhelmed and exhausted and need a total reset? 90 minutes enhanced creativity, emotional and procedural memory and allows for a complete cycle of sleep – which may result in less of that groggy feeling you may get with a shorter nap.
Dr. Sara Mednick, PhD, believes we may get the same learning enhancement benefits in a 90 minute nap as we do in an eight hour sleep period.
When to Nap?
So we know how long to nap, now when exactly should we nap? There are likely days when a nap could come in handy right after you get up or right before bed, but these are not the best choices. It all depends on if you are an early morning riser or a night owl.
For early risers, around 1PM is best; for the night owls, around 3PM is better.Keep in mind though, to try not to sleep much later than 4 to 4:30PM, or you could risk having trouble getting to sleep at bed time.
Regular napping has shown a decrease in overall stress for some people, thus could also reduce the risk of heart attack / heart disease, stroke, and excessive weight gain.
Bonus Tips on Napping
Need to be awake and going immediately after a power nap? Drink some coffee (or something caffeinated) just before a 20 to 30 minute snooze and by the time you wake up the caffeine will have had time to kick in and you’ll be ready to go!
Here are some tips to make napping easier:
- Pull the blinds, make the area dark.
- Get cozy – make sure you are warmly dressed or have a warm blanket.
- Do some stretches prior to your nap.
- Don’t stress it if you can’t sleep – the rest is helpful either way.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know the best nap length that will give your brain the biggest bang for your buck, it’s time to put napping into your routine.
Whether you’re an early rise or a night owl trying to get a quick refresh or productivity boost, find a time that fits you to take nap to reap its benefits.