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The Science Behind Napping: Power Nap Benefits, Considerations, and Tips

June 11, 2020

Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is essential for maintaining good overall health, a strong immune system, and optimal brain function. However, many Americans fail to get adequate, quality sleep due to factors such as caffeine, stress, not making enough time for sleep, and chronic health conditions such as heart disease and sleep apnea.

Under these circumstances, a power nap can help restore energy, alertness, mood, and memory, allowing you to function more optimally until it’s time to go to bed. An estimated 53 percent of the U.S. population reports napping regularly to get that extra shut-eye at least once per week, and you can enjoy power nap benefits too.

Here’s the science behind napping, including power nap benefits and the steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene if you’re lacking quality rest.

Are Naps Good For You?

If you’re feeling extremely groggy and unproductive, naps can reduce feelings of sleepiness, increase alertness, and heighten your cognitive performance. Naps can also improve your mood if you’re feeling irritable and cranky.

The most common power nap benefits are:

  • Enhanced memory
  • Mood improvement and stability
  • Faster reaction time
  • Enhanced procedural skills
  • Increased attention
  • Heightened creativity
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Less fatigue
  • Relaxation
  • Increased alertness

Power naps can also reduce your risk for health problems related to sleep deprivation. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that the most common health conditions linked to poor sleep are heart failure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, depression, and ADHD. Taking steps to improve your sleep habits — such as taking a power nap — can go a long way toward helping you avoid these health problems.

You may want to consider taking a nap if you’re experiencing unexpected sleepiness or new fatigue (such as during the first trimester of pregnancy), or if you’re expecting a schedule change that might cause sleep loss in the near future (such as working a double shift or traveling).

Short power naps can even be built into your daily routine to increase your performance if you feel that lack of sleep may be holding you back from accomplishing important goals.

What is the Ideal Power Nap Length?

How long is a nap supposed to be? Most sleep doctors say that a power nap should last only between 10 and 20 minutes. Of course, the ideal power nap length may vary for each person.

The key to finding the best power nap length for you is to determine how long you can sleep without experiencing sleep inertia afterward. Sleep inertia is the drowsy, heavy, disoriented feeling you may have after sleeping for too little or for too long. If you experience sleep inertia after a nap, the length of your nap needs adjusting until you find a power nap length that has you feeling refreshed and energetic upon waking.

Tips for Taking the Optimal Power Nap

Research and scientific evidence shows that naps are beneficial to your health and well-being, but only if executed properly. Here are a few ways to make sure you get the most power nap benefits.

  • Plan your power nap for early in the afternoon before 3 p.m.. Naps after this time can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm and interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Nap between 10 and 20 minutes to prevent grogginess and worsened fatigue.
  • Choose a quiet and comfortable environment in which to nap, such as your bedroom or a designated room at your workplace reserved for napping.
  • Wear a sleep mask, earplugs, or headphones, as these items can ensure a more peaceful environment for a restful and undisturbed power nap.

If you’re still struggling to get quality rest, speak to your doctor. They can recommend other sleep hygiene tips that may work for you and rule out any sleeping disorders that may be affecting your rest.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, an at-home sleep test can be an easy, convenient way to find out. Lunella allows consumers to take a sleep apnea test from the comfort of their own home and receive a proper data-driven diagnosis from a board-certified sleep physician and a prescription for treatment, if necessary.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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