how long you should nap

How Long Should You Nap?

Going back to work after the weekend is a difficult task for many. You remain tired, and you want to sleep in, and when you go to work, you find yourself yawning away and craving a cup of coffee. But wait before you head for the coffee machine. Have you considered taking a nap?

We all know the benefits of sleep. As Shakespeare rightly said, it is the season of all natures. There’s nothing that a little sleep cannot heal. But modern lifestyle has deprived people of the blissful luxuries of a good night’s sleep. Most people tend to burn the candle on both ends; they hit the bed late and wake up early for work. As a result, a large section of the urban population go about like zombies, sleep deprived, fatigued and stressed. Excess consumption of caffeine to ward off sleep does more harm than good.

The benefits of taking a midday nap are not only scientifically proven, but have also been realized by several companies around the world. So much so, that a lot of organizations now give employees a mid-day break of 30 minutes for a quick nap. It has been found to be effective in boosting energy, productivity, and cognitive functioning in employees.

napBut remember that a nap isn’t full-fledged sleep. You cannot lie down with the intention of taking a nap and end up sleeping for six hours. Taking a nap at specific times in the day and for only certain lengths of time can help you to optimize your snooze and ensure you wake up feeling rested and energized.

Here are a few rules for getting the most out of nap times:

Don’t nap if you have insomnia

napping insomniaSleep deprivation is different from a sleep disorder. If you are sleep deprived, then a nap in the afternoon can greatly benefit you. But if you suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia, then a nap can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Avoiding naps is best when you are an insomniac because it helps you fall asleep more easily at night.

Nap no more than 30 minutes

nap timerHave you ever woken up from a nap feeling worse? It happens when going into deep sleep when you’re only supposed to nap. That’s why naps should generally last no more than 30 minutes. It’s just the right length to nap without the risk of entering deep sleep finding it hard to wake up. A 30-minute power nap helps those who didn’t get enough sleep at night feel refreshed.

Take a longer nap if you have time

A full cycle nap is roughly about 90 minutes. So if you have time, taking a 90-minute nap is helpful in beating fatigue. An average sleep cycle is of 90 minutes, so if you nap for that long, you will enter REM sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.

Spend time outdoors

outdoors napIf you’re sleepy between one and three in the afternoon, what works even better than a nap is some time out in the sun. This is because it’s during late afternoons that the core body temperature drops and the body produces more melatonin. Being out in the sun prevents melatonin production and restores energy. Napping during late afternoons can also prevent a person from falling asleep at night.

Don’t nap past 4 pm

don't nap past 4If you nap after 4 in the evening, it gets harder to fall asleep at night. Your body usually needs a nap between noon and 4 pm. After that, it must get ready for nighttime sleep. The more tired you are, the better your chances of falling asleep at night.

How Long Should I Nap to Wake Up Refreshed?

Some people wake up, get going and keep going until they hit the bed at night. Others find that a catnap sometime around 2pm refreshes and keeps them going until late. If that is the case, then you may ask for how long should you take your obligatory forty winks?

There is no rule. The general consensus is that you can close your eyes and relax for about a half hour at the most. It is important not to fall into deep slumber, and that can leave you feeling groggy.  Set the alarm for your snooze.  However, some experts are of the opinion that 90 minutes is the ideal time because the body gets sufficient time to complete one sleep cycle. Doze for 90 minutes, and you wake up absolutely refreshed, and it also boosts creativity.

Why this is ideal can be best understood by knowing about stages of sleep.

  • Stage one is when sleep sets in and the brain generate alpha and theta waves. This stage lasts seven minutes, and when you wake up, you have just had a catnap.
  • During stage two the brain wave frequency increases and slows down. Wake up after stage two, and it is best because you feel refreshed.
  • The third and fourth stages are deep sleep during which the brain produces slower delta waves, and it is difficult to wake up. If you do, you feel lethargic.

REM sleep occurs 90 minutes after falling asleep, and there can be several cycles during the night. You dream.

How Long Should You Nap to Gain Energy?

You start the day, raring to go. You work right till it is lunchtime, and after that, you will find that a bit of lethargy sets in. This is when you should take a power nap.

A short doze is what will recharge your batteries and keep you full of energy to keep going throughout the day. The question is for how long should you take your afternoon dose of forty winks? Five minutes of shut-eye works for some. Ten minutes should be sufficient to reenergize you.

Sleep happens in four different phases.

The first stage is when the brain produces alpha and theta waves, and you are not fully asleep. This stage lasts for about seven minutes. Of course, you may have to keep your eyes closed for quite some time before this stage sets in and that determines for how long you need to have some shut eye to wake up with energy.  You can, of course, continue to stage two sleep.

During this phase, the brain wave frequency increases and the brain waves slow down. Wake up after this cycle and you are energized. Twenty minutes is ideal. You have time to grab a bite and get in a bit of snooze.

Are Naps Beneficial?

Cats keep nodding off one moment, and then they jump up and go about their business the next. Yes, if you look at them from this angle then sleeping is a paying proposition. Many enterprises realize that forty winks during lunch breaks are to be encouraged since it promotes productivity and that is what they love.

Try dozing off for ten minutes. Take a 20-minute power nap. Get some shuteye for an hour. They are all beneficial in varying degrees. Before we progress to that, we must mention that some people do not like the idea of a nap. They can try Shavasana, a yogic pose where you lie flat on your back with the legs spread and eyes closed for five minutes, to get the same benefit as a snooze.

Now, back to the benefits of taking a snooze.

  • Your health improves. If you have just had lunch, digestion improves, and the body is better able to metabolize food.
  • Take a brief power nap, and you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the grind ahead of you.
  • Take a 20-minute nap, and your brain regains alertness, and you are full of energy, same as when you started out in the morning.
  • Reserve dozing for an hour or an hour and a half for holidays and do it around 2 PM to get maximum benefits.

A nap every day can keep you youthful in body and mind for a long time.

Is It Bad to Nap in The Evening?

It is. The right time for forty winks is between 1 pm and 2 pm. Get some shuteye after 4 pm, and you have all sorts of problems.

You are likely to feel disoriented and lethargic when you wake up as the sun sets. Your body and mind will need time to adjust to the fact that when you have woken up the sun is setting and not rising. This can disturb your biorhythm.

Your health problems increase. Obesity is one direct outcome if you get into this habit of a snooze in late afternoon or evening. This can lead to complications like diabetes and heart trouble.

Worse, if you take your doze of forty winks around 5pm to 6pm, then you will have trouble falling asleep at night and will have to lie awake. You get less sleep and then it affects your work the next day. Why bother? If you feel sleepy, then put on your shoes and take a walk outside in the sun.

You are wasting valuable time you can spend in the garden, shopping or working. Evenings can be too beautiful to waste on sleep when God has given you the entire night. Of course, if you work nights, then it is another matter altogether.

What Is the Best Time to Take A Nap?

Long before artificial lights arrived on the scene man used to go to sleep with the onset of darkness and wake up the next day before sunrise, these days it is fashionable to stay up long after sundown, and you end up not getting enough sleep. The remedy is a brief interval of shut-eye during the day.

When precisely you should take a nap depends on you. In any case, do not take a nap before noon or after 4pm. You are supposed to be full of zest and be active until lunchtime. This can be around 1pm but usually occurs around 2pm in offices.

Lunch naturally gets the digestive process going and affects blood sugar levels. You may feel sleepy. So, take time out for your dose of forty winks. It will do you a world of good if you do it a half hour or 15 minutes after lunch. Your digestion also improves. So you can fix 2 to 2.30pm as a good time to go into the snooze mode.

How long you snooze is also important. Try 10 minutes at the minimum and 20 minutes at the most if you want to be active, energized and refreshed.

Napping Guide by Age

Newborn babies seem to sleep all the time, waking up to cry for food. Old people seem to doze throughout the day or frequently. Kids, who have so many things to do, will not nap at all and are likely to stay up past bedtime. However, even these energy-packed bundles could do with a dose of doze.

  • Babies: Newborns up to 3 months can doze for 16 to 17 hours a day because they are developing. At about12 months they can doze at regular intervals throughout the day, each one about 3 to 4 hours duration.
  • Toddlers: A one-hour nap in the afternoon is enough for this active age group. The right time is around noon.
  • Preschoolers may snooze for an hour or so around noon.
  • Teens: 30 minutes of shuteye will do teens a world of good, especially if they study and stay up nights.
  • Adults: Depending on their physique and the amount of sleep they have at night, adults can get by with a brief session of forty winks lasting anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes –  Reserve the one hour or an hour and a half session for holidays.
  • Older 60 plus: An hour or so of napping around 2 PM will keep them active, less tired and healthier for a long time.

Naps can be of great help for everyone. Keep these rules in mind to make the most of your naps.

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