Taking a nap is a great way to get some needed sleep, recharge your energy levels, and improve your overall mood. Through napping, you could improve your performance, learning, and memory while reducing sleepiness, easing stress, and regulating emotions.
Napping can be valuable to people of all ages, including toddlers, children, and adults. That being said, it’s important to take naps the right way to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm – or internal clock. Follow along as we go into detail on the benefits of napping and share helpful tips for taking healthy naps.
Benefits of Napping
Naps are considered shorter breaks of sleep during the day. While some people may take a brief, 20-minute snooze, others may extend their nap longer than that.
Daytime naps are a form of segmented sleep known as biphasic sleep. With biphasic sleep, an individual will break up their sleep into two segments within a 24-hour period. Normally, those who nap once during the day get most of their sleep at night1, though. Siestas, which are common in Spain, are an example of biphasic sleep.
In some cases, people may take part in polyphasic sleep, which is when you sleep for more than two periods within 24 hours. Polyphasic sleep is common for babies1.
If you often struggle to get through the day, you might consider setting aside some time to nap. Taking an afternoon nap can come with a slew of benefits connected to your physical, cognitive, and emotional health.
Naps could improve your memory
Napping has the potential to improve your memory. In a study of older adults, researchers found that the participants who slept between 30 and 90 minutes2 after lunch demonstrated better word recall and figure drawing, measurements of good memory and cognition.
However, it’s important to note that there is some conflicting evidence here as one study found that older adults who frequently sleep for more than an hour during the day had a 40-percent increased risk3 of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
With this in mind, keeping naps shorter may be the better option, though we do recommend consulting with your primary care physician to make the safest and most effective napping strategy.
Napping can reduce sleepiness
Napping can help reduce sleepiness. If you’re feeling drowsy during the day, a nap can help recharge your energy levels and increase your overall alertness and awareness. Many people who feel sleepy during the day find that they often have trouble concentrating and staying focused on what they need to do. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), napping for either 15-30 minutes or 90 minutes4 can increase your alertness levels.
However, 90-minute naps may be more beneficial for those who work longer shifts, such as emergency responders. This is because long naps could make it harder for you to fall asleep at night if you’re on a regular 9-5 type of schedule.
Naps can improve learning ability
Napping could also help you learn better in school. A 2019 study5 found that daytime naps provided the best long-term results for retaining information. In this study, the effects of napping were compared to cramming in the information and taking a break. Therefore, if you’re interested in studying more effectively, try incorporating power naps into your study regimen.
Napping gives your brain time to rest and retain information, processing it and helping you memorize it. This is beneficial to everyone who studies or has a job in which learning is crucial.
Napping can help regulate emotions
Napping is beneficial because provides your body with serotonin6, a chemical that helps regulate emotions and promotes more positive feelings. Sleep helps you process daily emotions and stress, which is why lack of sleep affects social function and emotional reactivity. Not getting enough sleep could have emotional effects regular napping can help with. In fact, research has found that napping could help curb negative emotionssup>7 like frustration and impulsiveness. By teaching your body to rest, you may experience less emotional distress or anxiety than you would if you hadn’t taken a nap.
Napping can improve physical performance
If you’re looking to improve your physical performance, napping could help. Research8 into how napping affected the performance of athletes found improvements in peak jump velocity after a 20-minute or less nap. This is compared to those who took longer naps or no naps at all. Additionally, these performance improvements were observed in both sleep-deprived and well-rested athletes. can help improve performance in a variety of fields.
In the case of athletes, though, it’s not just physical capabilities that they could benefit from though. As mentioned above, napping could improve alertness. For those who play a sport on a team, being more alert could also help you play better.
Naps can ease stress
Sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in stress levels. However, setting the alarm to take a quick nap for 20 minutes can help reduce stress by giving you time to step away and clear your mind. Additionally, though, napping increases levels of the norepinephrine hormone9. This hormone helps alleviate the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, which should help relax your blood pressure and heart rate.
Naps can be good for the heart
Napping is good for your heart, but only if you don’t nap too often or too long. A study10 found that people who napped two or three times a week had improved cardiovascular health compared to those who did not nap or napped more frequently. Additionally, nap duration is important. In the study, those who took shorter naps between 15 and 20 minutes showed better cardiovascular health compared to those who slept longer. The participants who slept longer actually showed an increased risk for heart problems. We mentioned above that naps could help decrease stress and blood pressure levels. This is important for heart health because high stress and blood pressure present a risk for heart attacks and strokes11.
Tips for Healthy Naps
Nap before 3:00 p.m.
The best time to is in the early afternoon and before 3:00 p.m.12 The good news is that this is often a time when people begin to feel that afternoon slump. Experts recommend napping by 3:00 p.m. before anything later than that can interfere with your sleep cycle and keep you awake at night.
Avoid long naps
Avoiding long naps is also important because if you sleep too long, this could interfere with your ability to fall asleep later at night. As a result, you could wind up going to bed later than usual and becoming sleep-deprived the following day.
Rather than risk not getting enough nighttime sleep, take short power naps. Some say the sweet spot is around 20 minutes, though some experts suggest no more than 30 minutes.
Be cautious if you have a sleep disorder
Short naps offer many benefits, but they may be harmful to those with parasomnia and other sleep disorders. If you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor about the feasibility of taking a nap. If you’re taking a nap at work, loud snoring and or other sleep behaviors could be disruptive for coworkers.
Block out light and noise
If you’re going to nap and don’t have much time, you’ll want to ensure the space you sleep in facilitates sleep. Whether you’re power-napping at work or home, look for a space that is dark and quiet. The darkness will help signal your body to sleep, while a quiet room provides fewer distractions.
Sleep in a cooler space
Along with resting in a dark and quiet place, you should also try to find somewhere that’s at a comfortable but cooler temperature, between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. A room that’s too warm or cold could make it harder for you to doze off. The reason for this is that a cooler room helps your body temperature drop, fostering sleep more easily.
Try a coffee nap
Though it sounds counterintuitive, taking coffee naps could make the most out of your rest time. While the coffee won’t help you sleep, it could help you feel more awake after.
To do it, you’ll need to drink a cup or two of coffee shortly before your planned nap time. Once you’re done, go ahead and lie down to sleep. The caffeine won’t kick for about 15 minutes1 13, so when it’s time to get up, you should feel the effects upon waking.
Final Word of Advice
Long days and busy schedules sometimes mean it’s sometimes hard to get sufficient sleep at night. While the goal should be to get enough good sleep nightly, there are times when that’s not possible. In this case, a nap could be a great solution for getting through the day.
The benefits of naps include improved cognitive abilities, better physical health and performance, reduced stress, and greater emotion regulation. If you do plan to nap, though, make sure to implement healthy napping tips, such as keeping them short, taking them earlier in the afternoon, and sleeping in a space that fosters better sleep.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
- “Biphasic + Polyphasic Sleep: What is it and who should be doing it?”. Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Disorders Institute of South Florida”. Webpage accessed January 7, 2024. https://pcsifl.com/biphasic-polyphasic-sleep-what-is-it-and-who-should-be-doing-it/.
- “Can a Nap Boost Brain Health?”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed January 7, 2024. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/can-a-nap-boost-brain-health#:~:text=Scientists%20found%20that%20people%20who,another%20sign%20of%20good%20cognition.
- “Daytime Napping in Seniors Linked to Risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Study Finds”. Cleveland Clinic. https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2022/04/25/daytime-napping-in-seniors-linked-to-risk-for-alzheimers-disease-study-finds/. 2022.
- “Napping, an Important Fatigue Countermeasure”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified April 1, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/napping.html#:~:text=Strong%20scientific%20evidence%20shows%20that,a%20brief%20nap%20is%20recommended.
- Cousins, James N., Wong, Kian F., Raghunath, Bindiya L., Look, Carol., Chee, Michael W. L. “The long-term memory benefits of a daytime nap compared with cramming”. Sleep. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6335868/#!po=79.1667. 2019.
- “5 Big benefits of a short power nap”. South African College of Applied Psychology. https://www.sacap.edu.za/blog/applied-psychology/power-nap/#:~:text=This%20can%20lead%20to%20anxiety,author%20of%20Take%20a%20Nap!. 2018.
- “For Adults: To Nap or Not to Nap?”. University of Rochester Medical Center. Webpage accessed January 7, 2024. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=4707.
- Lastella, Michele., Halson, Shona L., Vitale, Jacopo A., Memon, Aamir R., Vincent, Grace E. “To Nap or Not to Nap? A Systematic Review Evaluating Napping Behavior in Athletes and the Impact on Various Measures of Athletic Performance”. Nature and Science of Sleep. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8238550/#!po=64.5833. 2021.
- “14 Benefits Of Napping for College Students”. College of Graduate Studies at Tennessee Tech. https://blogs.tntech.edu/graduate/2022/01/26/14-benefits-of-napping-for-college-students/. 2022.
- “Is Napping Good for Heart Health?”. Cleveland Clinic. Webpage accessed January 7, 2024. https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2020/03/06/is-napping-good-for-heart-health/.
- “Chronic stress can cause heart trouble”. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/02/04/chronic-stress-can-cause-heart-trouble#:~:text=Stress%20may%20lead%20to%20high,cardiovascular%20events%2C%22%20Schiffrin%20said. 2020.
- “Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified November 9, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319#:~:text=Take%20naps%20in%20the%20early,time%20of%20day%20to%20nap.
- “Caffeine: How to Hack It and How to Quit It”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified December 23, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15496-caffeine-how-to-hack-it-and-how-to-quit-it#:~:text=The%20effects%20of%20caffeine%20can,is%20still%20in%20your%20body.