Cultures around the world have embraced napping for its restorative benefits and comfort during the midday post-lunch slump, but Americans have historically reserved napping for kindergarten classrooms and elderly people. By avoiding the custom of power napping in the rest of our population, we might be missing out on a powerful tool for boosting memory and focus. As research continues to reveal benefits associated with afternoon naps, however, more Americans are beginning to get on board with the napping habit. Still, there is some contention on the best napping habits—including how long to nap and where to do it.
How long should you nap?
For some people, a nap is a quick 20-minute snooze, while others think of napping as a prolonged sleep session of 1-2 hours. Recent research has indicated that the best power nap length is somewhere in between this range, at about 45 minutes, since this is the mark where memory processing seemed to be significantly improved in a group of sleep study participants. Still, you might have something to gain from a 10-20 minute nap, since this short period of sleep can be helpful in boosting alertness and energy.
What is the purpose of napping?
If you get enough nightly sleep and wake up feeling refreshed every morning, you probably do not need to nap to stay at your peak performance all day long. The problem is that many Americans do not get adequate nightly sleep—about 7-8 hours per night—which means that napping could be highly beneficial in our culture. In individuals who are not getting enough sleep at night, a daytime nap can be a real boost for productivity by increasing memory and focus.
Where is the best nap environment?
Just like your nightly sleep, the quality of your nap will be highly affected by your environment. To get the most out of a power nap, you should find a quiet space with a relatively cool temperature – sleep experts suggest 54 to 75 degrees – where you can lie down comfortably and set an alarm to avoid oversleeping. In many startup and tech work environments, napping spaces like this are actually provided for employees, but larger, more established workplaces may have yet to realize the benefits of napping for their staff.
If you frequently feel sluggish or have trouble maintaining focus in your day, a change in your sleeping habits could be the best solution—especially if you are able to work naps into your daily schedule. If you are still concerned about your sleep habits, you can speak with a MeMD doctor – even in the middle of the night!