How Long Should I Nap? Five Tips to Effective Napping

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Taking a nap midday is still common in many Mediterranean and European countries.  As children we frequently napped, whether we wanted to or not.  As adults in the United States, we’d love to take a midday break, but rarely take the time for this important practice.  With busy lives and schedules, super stress, and our many obligations, we are becoming more and more sleep deprived.  Naps can’t make up for not getting good, quality sleep at night, but they can be effective for helping us recharge our batteries during the day. 

Naps Are Beneficial To Brain Health

As we age, we need naps more than we did as children.  It becomes more difficult for us to get the slow wave sleep that we need, and we are sleeping fewer hours than before.  Taking time during the day for a brief nap can be important to preserve cognitive functioning, improved memory and recall, among other health benefits.  In fact, in one study researchers tracked 23,681 Greek men over a six-year period.  The participants in the study who napped an average of three times a week were found to have a significantly smaller risk for heart disease. 

German researchers from the University of Lubeck have found that short naps encourage improved learning and memory.  The study had two groups of participants memorize a set of illustrated cards, take a 40-minute break, and then memorize another set of cards.  During the 40-minute break one group was allowed a short nap and the other was not.  The researchers found that the sleep group had better memory of the cards than the group that did not nap–up to 85% recall of the first set of cards.    To figure out why, science has found that when you first record a memory in the brain it is easily forgotten, especially if other distractions occur.  Napping stores memories in the neocortex, or permanent storage, preventing them from being forgotten when replaced by other information. 

Five Tips to Effective Napping

  • Keep it short.  20 to 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to relax, recharge, and improve alertness without leaving you feeling foggy or interfering with your nighttime routines. 
  • Figure out how long it takes you to fall asleep.  If you’re trying to nap, understanding how long it typically takes you to fall asleep should be a factor.  If you only have 30 minutes to nap, if you’re using 20 minutes of that to actually fall asleep, you’re not reaping the full benefit of your nap time.  If you have a fitness tracker, sometimes these can help you determine your average time to fall asleep so you can take that into consideration before napping.
  • Make your environment restful.  Make sure you have a comfortable place to nap.  Check the room temperature, the bedding, the ambient sound level and the level of light in the room.  Having a comfortable place to nap is key to getting a restful break in.
  • Check the time.  Napping too late in the day may make it harder to fall asleep at night.  Napping too early in the day may be difficult because your body isn’t ready for more sleep yet.  Timing your nap to eliminate the midday slump while not interfering with your bedtime and waking hours is optimal. 
  • Practice!  You’ve heard the phrase practice makes perfect.  The same is true when you’re napping.  Practice napping until you figure out where to sleep, how long to sleep, and when to sleep so you get the most benefit from your naps. 

If you find it’s hard for you to relax and nap during the day, BrainTap provides the best experience in the enhanced meditation market.  Spending just 20 minutes a day with BrainTap will allow you to experience all the benefits of a daily nap including improved focus and clarity, improved memory and recall, and the benefit of an immediate energy boost to power through the rest of your day. 

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