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Types of Naps & Their Benefits

Napping is a common form of sleeping that lasts between ten minutes and three hours. There are six types of naps, and each is meant to provide different benefits to your physical and psychological well-being.

Naps can provide you with energy throughout the day if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep. However, napping for too long could make it harder to fall asleep at night. The six different types of naps are:

  1. Recovery Nap
  2. Coffee Nap
  3. Prophylactic Nap
  4. Appetitive Nap
  5. Fulfillment Nap
  6. Essential Nap

In this article, we’ll go into more detail on these types of naps, including how you could benefit from them.

Types of Naps

1. Recovery Nap, aka “Power Nap”

A recovery nap is less than 30 minutes long1. This type of nap is used to increase alertness and decrease drowsiness by allowing your body to sleep lightly. By keeping the nap short, you’ll be able to wake up before entering deep sleep, thereby decreasing your risk of feeling groggy after the nap. A recovery nap is recommended when you don’t get good sleep at night and need to recharge to get through the day.

Check out our full guide on the benefits of power naps.

2. Coffee Nap

A coffee nap is 20 minutes long2. It’s a unique form of power napping that is meant to optimize the effects of caffeine. To take a coffee nap, you drink a cup of coffee and then immediately sleep for 20 minutes.

Adenosine3 is a neurotransmitter that binds to receptors in the brain, signaling tiredness, and the caffeine in beverages like coffee binds to these same receptors, working to mask those tiredness signals. However, when you’re awake, caffeine and adenosine are competing against one another, whereas napping makes it easier for caffeine to bind to more receptors. While it may seem counterintuitive to sleep immediately after consuming coffee, caffeine doesn’t take effect until after about 15 minutes4, so by the time you wake up, you should feel refreshed and alert.

Learn more: How to Take a Coffee Nap

3. Prophylactic Nap

prophylactic nap5 is 2-3 hours long. As these naps are longer, they give the brain time to move into deeper sleep stages. Prophylactic naps are taken right before a shift to help those who work overnight remain alert.

Research has shown that these naps can be significantly beneficial, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) citing multiple studies on how they increased alertness in night shift workers. For example, one study on nurses and nurse aides found that those who took a 1.5-hour prophylactic nap before work reported more alertness in the latter half of their shift than those who didn’t nap.5

4. Appetitive Nap

An appetitive nap doesn’t have a designated amount of time, though experts6 say 20 minutes at midday has been found to be an ideal duration. This type of nap is described as something people may do simply because it feels good. As with other nap types, appetitive naps7 can improve your mood, reaction times, and cognitive performance.

5. Fulfillment Nap

There is no specific amount of time for a fulfillment nap. Rather, it is described as something young children8 take because of a greater need for sleep during their developmental years. Fulfillment naps are typically part of a child’s daily routine, and the amount of time sleeping will depend on the schedule that the parent or guardian sets.

6. Essential Nap

An essential nap also doesn’t have a specific time frame, but it is a form of rest people will take when they have an illness or inflammation.8 Essential naps serve as a way to help the body’s immune system fight off disease or infection. This makes sense considering sleep is a vital component of the immune system.

Conversely, getting too little sleep can increase your chances9 of developing an infection.

Naps & Sleep Cycles

Naps and sleep cycles are connected because the ideal nap time is one that ends at the right time in a sleep cycle. Sleep cycles consist of four sleep stages divided into two phases, Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. We typically go through multiple cycles when we sleep, but with naps, we may complete just one cycle or not even one.

It’s important to schedule naps around sleep cycles to avoid waking up in a sleep stage that could cause grogginess. A well-planned nap is one in which you wake up in a lighter sleep to feel the most refreshed.

Stage 1: Stage 1 of a sleep cycle10 is part of Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. This is the lightest stage of sleep, and as such, it is easier to wake up during this period. According to experts, this stage lasts anywhere from five to 10 minutes.

Stage 2: Stage 2 is also part of NREM sleep. Like Stage 1, this is a light sleep, though the body continues to relax further to eventually transition to a deep sleep11. This second stage11 can last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Stage 3: Stage 3 is deep sleep and the final stage of the NREM sleep phase. When you enter deep sleep, it’s harder to wake up, and if you do, you’re likely to feel groggy or disoriented. Deep sleep lasts 20 to 40 minutes.11

Rapid Eye Movement (REM): REM sleep is the fourth and final stage in a sleep cycle, typically lasting 10 minutes at first and then gradually getting longer the more sleep cycles you go through. Typically, people enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after going to sleep.11 According to sleep experts, waking up in REM sleep can cause sleep inertia12, which is when you feel groggy and not fully awakened, making it harder to perform daily tasks.

Learn More: What are the 4 Stages of Sleep?

Common Questions About Nap Types

Which Nap Type is the Most Beneficial?

The nap type that’s the most beneficial will depend on the needs of the sleeper, and as covered above, each nap type varies based on its purpose. Ultimately, a successful nap will be an appropriate amount of time to allow the individual to wake up feeling refreshed and won’t impact their nighttime sleep.

While the benefits of napping include better cognitive, physical, and emotional capabilities, they can also have negative side effects13, including sleep inertia and difficulty sleeping at night. The good news, though, is that scheduling your naps well, including when and how long they are, can help reduce your chances of experiencing these side effects.

Can Naps Increase Alertness?

Yes, research has shown that naps can increase alertness14. More specifically, experts say short power naps are better for boosting alertness. Conversely, they say that longer naps that last for an hour or more are linked to an increased risk of obesity and cardiovascular issues.

Are Post-Workout Naps Good?

Yes, taking a post-workout nap could be good. In general, sleep is a time when the muscles repair and recover. During exercise, you’ve exerted a lot of energy and put a strain on tissues and muscles, and so, catching up on sleep could help with recovery. In fact, research15 has shown a potential link between sleep and preventing or alleviating muscle injuries caused by exercise.

Learn More: Pros and Cons of Sleeping After Workout

How Long Should College Students Nap?

College students may find that their need for sleep increases as they have long days and all-night study sessions. A 20-minute snooze may provide temporary relief, but if the student is studying for an exam or working on a demanding project, then a longer 90-minute nap16 may be needed.

Additionally, when college students nap is equally important. Experts say the ideal nap period is between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m16. Conversely, napping evening the evening could have a negative effect, with research finding that students who napped between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.17 slept for less time overnight than those who napped earlier in the day.

Last Word of Advice

Naps are a great way to recharge on days when you feel sluggish. That being said, they shouldn’t be used as an excuse to neglect nighttime sleep. Ideally, if you’re sleeping well regularly, you shouldn’t always need a nap. However, there are exceptions, such as for young children, people who are sick, or nightshift workers, who may need naps more often.

If you feel like you need to nap almost every day, though, it’s a good idea to reexamine your sleep schedule and any other habits impacting your sleep. We also recommend checking in with your primary care provider to ensure you don’t have any underlying issues, such as a sleep disorder.

If you are having trouble with finding a good mattress, take a look at our list of best mattresses of 2024.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

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.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach
  1. “Should You Take Power Naps?”. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
  2. Hayashi, Mitsuo., Masuda, Akiko., Hori, Tadao. “The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime nap”. National Library of Medicine. 2003.
  3. Ribeiro, Joaquim A., Sebastião, Ana M. “Caffeine and adenosine”. National Library of Medicine. 2010.
  4. “Caffeine: How to Hack It and How to Quit It”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified December 23, 2020.
  5. “NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours”. Module 7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified March 31, 2020.
  6. Romdhani, Mohamed., et. al. “The Effect of Experimental Recuperative and Appetitive Post-lunch Nap Opportunities, With or Without Caffeine, on Mood and Reaction Time in Highly Trained Athletes”. Frontiers in Psychology. 2021.
  7. Lohr, Jim. “Can Napping Make Us Smarter?”. Scientific American. 2015.
  8. Mantua, Janna., Spencer, Rebecca M. C. “Exploring the nap paradox: are mid-day sleep bouts a friend or foe?”. National Library of Medicine. 2017.
  9. “NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours”. Module 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified March 31, 2020.
  10. “Sleep Basics”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified December 7, 2020.
  11. “Stages of Sleep”. Kaiser Permanente. Last modified November 7, 2022.
  12. “12 Facts About Sleep Inertia”. Valley Sleep Center. 2012.
  13. “Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified November 9, 2022.
  14. “Researchers study how daytime naps may influence health”. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2023.
  15. Chennaoui, Mounir., et. al. “How does sleep help recovery from exercise-induced muscle injuries?”. National Library of Medicine. 2021.
  16. Zevorich, Ariel. “College Students Need Naps”. Mount Aloysius College. 2021.
  17. Ye, Lichuan., Hutton Johnson, Stacy., Keane, Kathleen., Manasia, Michael., Gregas, Matt. “Napping in college students and its relationship with nighttime sleep”. National Library of Medicine. 2015.