Science Says This Is the Length of a Perfect Nap

Plus: when you should doze off.

Science Says This Is the Length of a Perfect Nap
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On Wednesday, Twitter user @Ladi_Lu posed a very important question on her account: how long, exactly, is a nap?

The thread got enough commentary to become its own Twitter moment, and the responses varied widely. Some said “anywhere between 2 hours and waking up tomorrow” counts so long as one declares it a nap. Other maintained that anything longer than two hours counts as sleep. A poll showed that most users felt that anything between one and two hours is optimal.

As it turns out, how long the ideal nap is depends on what effect you want it to have. According to sleep experts interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, a 10-20 minute nap is best for those who want a boost to alertness. A 60-minute nap helps with cognitive memory processing, and therefore might be best for people who are studying for exams, but the downside is that it often comes with a bit of grogginess.

A 90-minute nap helps aid creativity and emotional and procedural memory, so it’s good for artists, people who are learning a new skill, or those who need to emotionally recharge. The latter also allows you to go through an entire sleep cycle, so it’s the least likely to make you feel groggy upon waking up.

The findings are bolstered by sleep expert Jennifer Ackerman, who told The Guardian that taking a short nap (defined as less than 45 minutes) are best if you need to immediately spring into action once you wake up. To give your alertness an ever bigger boost, she suggests drinking coffee immediately before you start to snooze, since caffeine requires around 30 minutes to take effect, meaning it will kick in just as you wake up. (To learn more about this, see how one of our correspondents Tried a “Coffee Nap” Every Morning For a Week and It Changed His Life.)

However, if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before and have a little time to catch up during the day, a 90-minute nap will be the most effective way to help your brain recharge. Especially since daytime sleepiness has recently been linked to dementia.

Whatever amount you choose, there’s no denying that there’s an increasing body of research that indicates that taking a nap is really good for you, and not a sign of laziness as previously assumed.

“A slew of recent studies have shown that naps boost alertness, creativity, mood, and productivity in the later hours of the day,” Ackerman wrote. “Napping reduces stress and lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and excessive weight gain.”

If you’re wondering when the best time to take a nap is, the answer is that it depends on your chronotype. If you’re a lark, you’ll feel the need for a nap around 1 pm. If you’re a night owl, you’ll need one closer to 3 pm.

For more on how to adjust your sleep cycle to your chronotype, check out Why It’s Super Healthy to Be an Early Riser.

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