Just thinking about an afternoon nap makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, doesn’t it?
That’s because on most occasions an arvo snooze means switching off the alarm and sneaking under the covers when the sun’s still shining.
Sometimes, you wake feeling reinvigorated, having timed your zzzs perfectly. Other times, you feel groggy and disorientated. In situations like this, it’s not uncommon to wake feeling more tired than you did, pre-snooze.
So, what’s the key to the perfect nap?
According to research, it’s all in the timing. According to Sleep.org, 20 minutes is all you need to reap the benefits of a nap. This improves alertness, enhances performance and improves your moods. This is predominantly because 20-minute naps keep you in the lightest form of sleep, which can be easier to wake from, and come with that "jet-lagged" feeling afterwards.
A 30-minute sleep, on the other hand, is what experts call the ‘grogginess nap’. Studies have shown that when you take a longer nap, your brain starts to slow down (which is why you feel similar to what you do first thing in the morning).
According to Science of People, this is also because your body is still in a state of rest, while parts of your brain are not fully awake yet.
At 30-60 minutes, your brain slows down even more, venturing into a deeper sleep cycle. Here, the benefits of a slow-wave sleep comes from cognitive memory processing, such as remembering facts, events or faces.
For those lucky enough to squeeze in a 90-minute sleep, you’ve hit the nap-jackpot (is nap-pot a thing?!)
At an hour and a half, your nap completes a full sleep cycle, which means afterwards, you get to enjoy the full benefits, including an increase in emotional and procedural memory and a boost of creativity. Waking up from REM sleep (rapid eye movement) also means little to no sleep inertia experienced. For now, here are some more benefits of a light kip on the couch...
Napping lowers blood pressure: According to research, a midday nap can actually lower blood pressure. A study from the 2019 American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Section showed that a midday sleep appears to be as effective as other lifestyle changes, such as lowering alcohol consumption.
It increases alertness and performance: According to the National Sleep Foundation, naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap, and may extend a few hours later in the day. What’s more, a study at NASA on military pilots and astronauts, found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.
It can boost your immune system: Sleep deprivation can take a toll on your neuroendocrine and immune functions, as well as stress hormones, such as cortisol. According to the National Sleep Foundation, taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each (one in the morning, one in the afternoon) has been shown to decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.
It enhances your learning capabilities:
Studies show that napping during the day can help you learn faster and more effectively. This helps with memory and focus, but studies have also shown that ability to retain more information is heightened after a quick snooze.
If you are concerned about your sleep, health or wellbeing, your first port of call should be a GP, who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan.