Should You Take Power Naps?

How a quick catnap can give you a boost
woman taking power nap

Unless you live in one of the (lucky) countries where midday siestas are the norm, you probably aren’t used to taking an afternoon nap. But it may be time to start.

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You can reap several benefits from a short power nap, says pulmonologist and sleep apnea specialist Samuel Gurevich, MD. But they aren’t for everyone. Find out what makes a nap a “power nap” — and whether it could give you the midday boost you’re craving.

What is a power nap?

Power naps are short and sweet, Dr. Gurevich explains, taking advantage of our natural sleep cycles. We move through several different phases of sleep — some light, some deep. A full sleep cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes.

Longer naps have the downside of producing more sleep inertia — that drowsy feeling you experience when you wake up. “If you go through a whole sleep cycle, you’re more likely to wake up pretty groggy,” Dr. Gurevich says.

Short power naps cut the risk of waking up in a daze.

Power nap time: How long is a power nap?

There’s no medical definition for a power nap, Dr. Gurevich says. But in general, the term refers to short naps ranging from about 10 to 30 minutes.

A power nap that lasts 20 to 30 minutes is usually ideal. It’s long enough to give you all the benefits of sleep without leaving you feeling groggy when you wake up.

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Power nap benefits

Daytime naps might be especially helpful if you’re dragging after a lousy night’s sleep. But even for people who aren’t sleep deprived, a power nap can be beneficial. “Power naps can help you refill your tank a bit,” Dr. Gurevich says.

A short afternoon nap can help you feel less sleepy and lead to improvements in:

  • Mood.
  • Alertness.
  • Reaction time.
  • Short-term memory.
  • Focus and concentration.

If you had a late night last night — and you have the time today — you might benefit from a longer nap. Snoozing for an hour or 90 minutes can help you make up some of that sleep deficit. This longer nap length has also been shown to boost memory and creativity.

When power naps aren’t the cure

If you’re chronically sleep deprived, don’t count on power naps to save the day, Dr. Gurevich says.

“If you have chronic insomnia, or a medical issue like sleep apnea that’s interfering with your sleep, a power nap during the day isn’t a fix,” he notes. “The ultimate answer is treating the underlying problem.”  

How to take a power nap

Some people pop up from a power nap, ready to take on the world. Others take a while to shake off the sleep inertia and stop feeling groggy. It might take some trial and error to figure out if a power nap works for you.

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But if you can carve out time for an afternoon catnap, these tips can help you maximize the benefits. 

1. Set an alarm

To make sure your power nap doesn’t turn into a marathon sleep sesh, set an alarm to wake you after 20 or 30 minutes.

2. Make it early

Sleeping too late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep at night, setting you up for a day of sleep deprivation. “Nap earlier in the afternoon to avoid interfering with nighttime sleep,” Dr. Gurevich advises.

3. Set the stage

A calm sleep environment is as important for your day slumber as it is for your night sleep. Grab a cozy blanket and find a cool, quiet, dark place to rest. “Noise, light and uncomfortable temperatures can interfere with the quality of your sleep, even if you don’t remember waking during the nap,” he says.

So what are you waiting for? Carve out a comfy corner, grab an eye mask and set a timer. That power nap is calling your name.

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