Mid-Day Naps can actually be great for your physical energy and mental state. In fact, most mammals require short periods of sleep throughout the day to stay alert.
It’s recommended that you nap for 20 to 30 minutes, as this will leave you feeling refreshed and more energized, while longer naps will make you feel groggy. However, if you choose to sleep for longer amounts of time, aim for a full 90-minute nap, as you will go through a balance of all the sleep cycles, which can aid in memory retention and creativity.
It is also important to consider where you choose to nap, as the environment you rest in can play a key role in how well you actually sleep. Limit the amount of light filtering in, keep noise levels low, and maintain a comfortable room temperature.
If you choose to take a nap closer to your bedtime, you may find it harder to get to sleep at a normal hour, so plan your nap between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. if you can. Once you have the perfect setup for your nap, you will reap the following benefits.
1. Increased alertness
Though you may wake from your nap in a sleepy haze, you will likely find that when you do fully awaken, you are much more alert than you were pre-nap. According to The Art of Manliness, studies found that just taking a 20-minute nap can increase your awareness more than 200 milligrams of caffeine or even a brief exercise session. NASA also performed a study on the effectiveness of napping and found that a 40-minute nap will increase your alertness by 100%.
It’s also common to feel energized during the first half of your day and then crash as soon as the afternoon hits. If you break up your day with a quick nap, you will feel much more awake and capable of performing tasks. Are you too busy to nap for even 20 minutes? Not a problem. The Huffington Post cites a study that found that even just 10 minutes of napping will help you feel more alert.
2. Improved memory and learning capabilities
According to Men’s Health, a group of German neuropsychologists found that if you nap after learning something new, you are five times more likely to remember it than if you hadn’t napped at all. The ability for your brain to go into a calm, relaxed state while you sleep is linked to your ability to remember.
Though you may experience a small memory boost during a shorter nap, it’s really the 90-minute naps that allow your brain to retain information much more effectively. Rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, is the final stage in your sleep cycle. It’s first achieved after about 90 minutes of sleep and then continues to occur every 90 minutes afterward.
Your brain is active in REM sleep, which is why you dream in this stage and, of course, retain new information much more effectively than if you only entered the beginning stages of sleep. Though you may feel groggier after a longer nap, know that any new information you have received (work-related or otherwise) will be well-maintained in your brain.
3. Improved creativity
Napping also boosts functioning in the areas of your mind that are associated with cognitive processing and creativity. Treehugger reports, according to James Maas and Rebecca Robins, cofounders of Sleep for Success, that napping activates parts of the brain that are responsible for imagination and ingenuity while also helping to “clear out the cobwebs” and fuse new ideas together in ways that your conscious mind may not have thought of.