Best Nap Length

Not too long, not too short. Here's what the research says about how long you should nap (for energy, mood, and focus.)

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Man taking a nap

We get it; when you have had a long day and that 3 o’clock hour rolls around, sometimes you just need to lay down and rest your eyes for a bit. We’ve heard it called the “power nap,” and that’s exactly what the goal is: to recharge for more energy.

But when all you can think about is a little extra shut-eye, it’s highly unlikely that you lay down and think: how long should I nap to feel energized? 

Ideally, you should nap no longer than 10 to 20 minutes. Of course, certain variables come into play based on factors such as age and sleeping habits, which we’ll discuss later in this article.

The truth is, the length of your nap can mean the difference between waking up refreshed and emerging groggy. That’s why it is crucial to learn the best nap length.

Are Naps Beneficial?

If you find yourself tired every day, naps can provide you with several benefits that can improve your wellbeing. Just a quick nap during the day can offer you a lot.

Napping Can Boost Your Mood

Who does not feel great after a good night’s sleep? Taking a nap in the middle of the day could be the solution to a grumpy mood. Even just relaxing with your eyes closed can help you feel better.

You Might Feel More Alert

When the coffee buzz wears off and your belly is full from your lunch break,  your eyelids may start drooping and your mind begins wandering.

While it may seem counterproductive to take a break to nap, doing so can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon.

Napping Can Improve Learning and Memory

You may have heard that the key to preparing for a big test or presentation is a restful night of sleep. Many experts agree that getting sleep after a study session helps more than pulling an all-nighter.

We can say the same about napping. Napping can help you remember something you’ve learned or studied by allowing your brain to do its job and connect the dots for you.

You Can Stay Up Later

Adults need to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night, but that’s not always possible. Whether you work the night shift, you are taking care of a newborn, or you merely want to make it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, taking a nap can make it easier to stay up later.

Taking a power nap can better prepare you to stay awake than drinking a lot of caffeine. You will not get jittery and will stay refreshed for longer.

Napping Can Help Relieve Stress

Avoiding stress is a great way to maintain your physical and mental health, but it is easy for the busyness of life to catch up with you. If you feel particularly stressed out, one thing that can help is taking a nap.

It can be challenging to sleep when your brain is constantly going over everything you need to do. Understand that a quick 20-minute nap or even just laying down with your eyes closed can make you feel less stressed and may help you tackle your to-do list more effectively.

You May Improve Your Heart Health

Researchers have linked naps and heart health on several occasions. Sleep, in general, can have both positive and negative effects on your heart health, depending on how you manage your rest.

By adding a few naps per week to your regular schedule, you may be able to minimize your risk of heart disease and stroke. However, we recommend adding naps to an already active, healthy lifestyle.

How Long Should You Nap For Energy?

Many of us are still wondering, how long should I nap? We now know the short answer is 10 to 20 minutes, although some experts cite 30 minutes as a good and acceptable length as well. But let us dig a little deeper into the science behind that answer.

Is Napping the Same For Everyone?

In short, no; napping does not always look the same for everyone. While most experts would agree that naps around the 20-minute mark are ideal, some individuals may have different needs and could benefit from longer naps.

One study showed that 25-, 35-, and 45-minute naps work for people of all ages. These longer naps showed a significant decrease in the symptoms of fatigue and stress.

Napping can vary by age as well. Younger individuals in their teens, twenties, thirties, and forties may never feel the need to nap. But as we age, our sleep cycles become less consistent, leading to more daily fatigue.

Likewise, younger children and babies have different needs in terms of napping. For the first couple of years of life, a baby will need several naps per day. Experts recommend one nap up to the age of five although some parents enforce a nap or “quiet time” for several years after that.

The need for a nap will also depend on your lifestyle and activities. Someone who enjoys staying out late will need more sleep time to recover versus someone who goes to bed at 9:30 every night.

Additionally, individuals who work night shift jobs have different sleep schedules than others.

When Should You Nap?

The question of whether you should nap as an adult is one thing. Your next question should revolve around when. Does it matter what time of day you nap?

The answer to this question, like the one above, greatly depends on your lifestyle and individual needs.

But for the most part, individuals on a consistent schedule do best when they take early afternoon naps. Napping anytime after 3 p.m. can make it more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime.

Longer Naps

As we have already mentioned, most experts recommend napping anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes, with the 20-minute mark being the assumed sweet spot. However, there are exceptions to this rule that may make longer naps necessary. 

If you are sleep-deprived, you must give your body a full sleep cycle to recover completely from lack of sleep. A full sleep cycle lasts for at least 90 minutes. In some cases, you may need a 90-minute to 120-minute nap to recuperate from sleep deprivation.

Napping vs. Sleeping

At night, you close your eyes and go to sleep. During a nap, you also close your eyes and go to sleep. So, what is the difference? Is there a difference at all?

There is a big difference between napping and sleeping, and it all has to do with the stages of sleep.

Nighttime sleeping happens in cycles, and each cycle has five stages: stages 1-4 and REM sleep. Each cycle is usually between 90 and 110 minutes. With each cycle your body completes, your body falls into a deeper and deeper sleep with longer rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep phases.

Sleep cycles are why taking shorter naps regularly and longer naps for sleep deprivation help different people in different ways.

A short nap between 10 and 30 minutes will only allow your body to reach stage one and sometimes stage two of a sleep cycle. When you sleep for longer than that, you transition into a deeper sleep that makes it more difficult to wake back up.

When you sleep long enough to transition into deeper sleep, you may feel groggy and even more tired when you wake up. Sleep inertia is the grogginess you feel after waking up from deeper sleep. 

Someone who is sleep-deprived may need a longer nap to complete a full sleep cycle or two without suffering from sleep inertia.

Detriments of Oversleeping

If you love to sleep, you may not realize that some think that you can get too much sleep. But oversleeping can lead to some significant problems.

For instance, napping too long or too often can lead to:

  • Grogginess
  • Fatigue
  • Disrupted nighttime sleep
  • Lack of concentration

Sleeping too much overall, such as consistently sleeping more than the recommended eight hours, can cause even more dire consequences:

  • Depression
  • Lowered cognitive function
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Higher risk of heart disease
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches

Now, oversleeping one or two nights does not automatically mean you will experience all of the above ailments. However, chronic oversleeping can have some serious effects on your life and physical well-being.

So, How Long Should You Nap?

We covered a lot of helpful information above, but the question at hand has a simple answer. The best nap length is between 10 and 30 minutes, with 20 minutes as the ideal mark.

But we also learned that in some cases, a nap as long as 45 minutes may be more helpful for some people so that is their best nap length. In cases of sleep deprivation,  give your body at least one complete sleep cycle of rest or about 90 minutes.

Use the information we’ve provided today to evaluate your specific sleep needs based on your lifestyle and schedule. Catch some Z’s and rest up properly for your healthiest life!

Nate Devore
Nate Devore
For over 15 years Nate has been obsessed with solving his own personal and difficult health challenges related to sleep, energy, and fatigue. As one of our sleep experts at sleeping.com, Nate is passionate about helping you get the best night’s sleep possible.

Medical Disclaimer: The content on this page should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for any specific treatment. Always consult your doctor before making any decisions.

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