If you're sleep deprived or just looking for a way to relax, you might be thinking about taking a nap. Napping at the wrong time of day or for too long can backfire, though. Understand how to get the most out of a nap.
Napping offers various benefits for healthy adults, including:
- Reduced fatigue
- Increased alertness
- Improved mood
- Improved performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory
Napping isn't for everyone. Some people simply can't sleep during the day or have trouble sleeping in places other than their own beds, which napping sometimes requires.
Napping can also have negative effects, such as:
- Sleep inertia. You might feel groggy and disoriented after waking up from a nap.
- Nighttime sleep problems. Short naps generally don't affect nighttime sleep quality for most people. But if you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. Long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep.
You might consider making time for a nap if you:
- Experience new fatigue or unexpected sleepiness
- Are about to experience sleep loss — for example, due to a long work shift
- Want to make planned naps part of your daily routine
If you're experiencing an increased need for naps and there's no obvious cause of new fatigue in your life, talk to your doctor. You could be taking a medication or have a sleep disorder or other medical condition that's disrupting your nighttime sleep.
To get the most out of a nap, follow these tips:
- Keep naps short. Aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward. However, young adults might be able to tolerate longer naps.
- Take naps in the early afternoon. Napping after 3 p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep. Individual factors, such as your need for sleep, your sleeping schedule, your age and your medication use, also can play a role in determining the best time of day to nap.
- Create a restful environment. Nap in a quiet, dark place with a comfortable room temperature and few distractions.
After napping, give yourself time to wake up before resuming activities — particularly those that require a quick or sharp response.