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Optimal Nap Time

Considerable stigma and judgment revolve around napping during the day. People are judged for being lazy if caught napping at their desks, on the train, or in the car passenger seat since they are not doing something productive while the sun is still out. However, napping is not what the social stigma defines it as. In fact, you can use it as a secret weapon to attain an edge over others by chipping away at your sleep debt.

The benefits of napping are widespread, ranging from augmented cognitive performance to boosted confidence levels. The time you devote to your siesta is directly proportional to how well you function and feel during the day.

But what is the optimal sleep time that can help you benefit from all the advantages napping brings to the table? Let’s find out.

What is the Difference Between Napping and Sleeping?

We have all experienced a short snooze turning into an hours-long sleep fest. Whether you wake up recharged or groggy, chances are your night-time sleep duration is not how it should be. That is the primary difference between sleeping and napping: a nap is meant to temporarily recharge your brain and body, whereas sleep offers an elaborate and complete reset.

Sleep cycle and sleep duration are the two primary differences between sleeping and napping. The brain naturally moves through four stages of sleep, with each stage progressing sequentially through light sleep, deep sleep, and REM on a repetitive cycle of 90-110 minutes.

Since good naps are meant to re-energize the mind and body, the optimal nap length ensures that you do not enter deep sleep or REM sleep stages. Therefore, naps lasting less than three hours do the trick best.

In contrast, true sleep occurs during the REM and deep sleep stages, where the body undergoes substantial and most impactful restoration. Thus, sleeping 7 to 9 hours every night is crucial in maintaining a productive and high-functional lifestyle.

What are the Different Types of Naps?

Naps are divided into seven categories based on sleep needs and objectives. Let us delve deeper into these nap types to help you discern which nap you should try next:

Nap Type Power Nap Recovery Nap Prophylactic Nap Fulfillment NapCaffeine Nap Appetitive NapWhat It Is A nap that boosts energy when you are short on time. A nap that helps you make up for lost sleep. A nap that helps you prepare for a sleepless night or all-nighter. A nap taken by a child with a higher sleep requirement than an adult. A nap taken immediately after consuming caffeine so that you wake up just as its effects kick in.A nap taken merely for the fun of it. Duration 10-20 minutes 90 minutes 90 minutes 30+ minutes 20 minutes 10-90 minutes Best For People who have a fully packed schedule. People who did not get enough sleep the previous night. People who wish to prepare in advance for a sleepless night. Children who did not meet their sleep requirements the night before. People who require a double energy boost.People who are not sleep deficient but enjoy napping.

What is the Best Nap Length?

It is essential to look into your daily goals and objectives before discerning the ideal nap length. Depending upon the different needs of your day, you may be interested in a “replacement” nap to pay off your sleep debt.

Or, you may simply wish to recharge yourself with an “appetitive nap” even if you aren’t feeling particularly sleepy. Let us look into the effectiveness of these different kinds of naps to offer better insight into which one may work the best for you:

Replacement naps

According to the Sleep Journal, you can sharpen your logical reasoning skills after taking a 15-minute post-lunch nap by reducing sleepiness, provided you slept for four hours the night before.

Prophylactic naps

According to research conducted on test subjects who stayed awake for 39 hours straight, a two-hour prophylactic nap proved highly effective in maintaining performance, alertness, and mood through the final 23 hours.

In contrast, the test subjects experienced grogginess for up to two hours after taking a long nap. Thus, this kind of nap can help you get the most out of your performance if you need to stay awake for extended periods of time.

Appetitive naps

Napping merely for the fun of it is not a futile activity, as social stigma forces us to believe. Appetitive napping can help augment cognitive function and boost alertness for up to four hours after the nap.

All in all, all kinds of naps are critical in boosting alertness and downplaying drowsiness. The various nap lengths may, however, have varying degrees of benefits regarding performance, attention, and mood.

A micro-nap as short as 6 minutes can help improve memory, whereas a power nap ranging from 10-20 minutes can help you feel confident, sharp, and capable of efficiently internalizing information. Similarly, the more sophisticated analytical skills, including thinking, organizing, planning, and evaluating, require a longer snooze lasting 40 to 90 minutes.

Emotion-processing and creative thinking skills largely depend upon rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which generally appears in longer naps lasting at least 60 minutes. Therefore, the longer you nod off, the more benefits you will reap.

The Journal of Progress in Brain Research corroborates the many benefits of short naps and declares that their advantages take effect for up to one to three hours, whereas those of longer naps can last several hours.

Summing Up

Shorter naps are relatively less likely to trigger slow-wave sleep - also known as deep sleep - and thus, an individual is less likely to experience sleep inertia and grogginess upon waking up. This makes shorter naps the better choice if you have to begin working immediately after waking up.

In contrast, deep sleep cycles are more likely to appear in longer naps; a 30-minute nap possesses 7.5 times more slow-wave activity than a mere 10-minute nap, making grogginess a likely symptom of longer snoozes.

American-board certified and fellowship-trained professionals at SleepRx offer specialized sleep-related treatments, including sleep studies, sleep apnea test, and polysomnography.

You can also book an online sleep apnea test or at-home sleep study with a sleep specialist of your choice and get tested for sleep apnea right from the comfort of your home! Head over to SleepRx to learn more and book an appointment online through a few easy steps!

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