Alaska Sleep Education Center

5 Guidelines For A Successful Nap

Posted by Jennifer Christensen on Jul 31, 2013 1:51:00 PM

Naps can be a wonderful thing. They can increase alertness, improves learning and working memory, improves your mood, prevents burn-outs, heightens creativity, and improves overall health - why wouldn't you take a nap during the day?
Here are 5 ways that you can nap more effectively.  
  • First, let yourself know it’s alright to take a break and have a nap in the afternoon.
  • Don’t nap for longer than 20-30 minutes. Taking a longer nap could affect your day by making you groggy and feel even more tired after you wake up, it can also affect your ability to fall back asleep in the evening.
  • Choose your nap spot carefully. Pick a place that is quiet, away from disruptions, and moderately dark to maximize the time spent napping. Taking a nap on a bed or a couch is ideal, but if you can only catch a nap on a bus or seat, it is still an effective nap.  
  • Try to get your nap in between 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and not within the 3 hours before your normal bedtime.
  • Prepare for your nap. Plan ahead and bring a travel pillow or blanket with you, and if you are in a noisy or bright area bring an eye mask and earplugs.  

The benefits of a nap

A nap's benefits rest largely in the method the nap is taken.  In order to get the most from a nap, it is important to understand what constitutes an effective nap.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are three types of naps.

Planned Napping

Planned NapsPlanned napping, also called preparatory napping, is a type of nap you take before you get tired.  A planned nap is great for people that know they’ll be up later than their normal bedtime, or if they tend to get tired later in the day. 




Emergency Napping

Emergency napping is exactly what it sounds like – a nap that must happen.  It’s a priority.  This is for individuals that suddenly feel very tired and cannot continue their normal activities.  An emergency nap is great for those driving long distances that need to pull over and get a quick nap.

Habitual Napping

Habitual napping describes individuals who take a nap at the same time each day.  This would apply to young children that take a nap around the same time each day, or like a siesta where adults take a short nap after lunch.  Habitual napping is different from planned napping in that a planned nap doesn’t occur regularly. 

In spite of the type of nap you take, there are two important guidelines to follow for effective naps.

Short Naps

A short nap is most often recommended from sleep specialists.  Naps lasting for 20-30 minutes can improve daytime alertness and eliminate that groggy post-nap feeling.  Short naps also are less likely to interfere with nighttime sleep as well.

Sleep Environment

The napping environment can increase a nap’s effectiveness tremendously.  If possible, find a cool, dark, quiet, and peaceful place to rest, preferably somewhere you can lie down to sleep.  However, make sure you set an alarm in order to prevent from napping longer than anticipated.


Be careful not to take a nap longer than 30 minutes.  Longer naps can lead to sleep inertia, which is the disorientation and groggy feeling that happens from awaking from a deep sleep.  Also, avoid napping late in the day, which can negatively affect the length and quality of your nighttime sleep.

Some sleep specialists will caution against napping altogether.  Ralph Downey III, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, stated, "Even just a little bit of a power nap reduces your nighttime sleep drive.  The nap becomes nothing more than another episode of fragmented sleep."

The best advice is to try napping and see how you feel.  However, if after following these recommendations you’re still feeling tired throughout the day, and constantly fighting sleep, you may have a more serious sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea.  If this is the case, no amount of napping will help you feel more rested.  

If you live in Alaska and you would like to speak to a sleep specialist about benefits you can receive from napping, or if you believe you have a more serious sleep disorder, please click on the link below. 

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Topics: napping

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