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The Ultimate Guide to How to Take the Perfect Nap!

by Ann Ferguson

Let's face it — sometimes you don't get enough sleep. Even with perfect conditions, the best mattress, cooling blankets, and a dark room, deep sleep sometimes eludes us. But that's where napping comes to the rescue!

No, napping isn't just for kids, napping benefits adults too! Naps can help improve cognitive function and memory retention, regulate emotions, increase alertness, reduce stress, and improve your mood! The key is napping just enough, not too much, and not too little. People often wind up napping longer than their goals, which diminishes the benefits.

But don't worry; our simple guide will show you how to take the perfect nap so you can feel refreshed!

Difference Between Sleeping & Napping

Difference between sleeping and napping

Before we get into our napping tips, let's go over the difference between sleeping and napping. A nap is a quick recharge to your system, while sleeping is a complete reset for your mind and body. Sleeping means your brain goes through up to five complete sleep cycles, including the four sleep stages per cycle (light sleep x2, deep sleep, & REM sleep).

Naps, however, are best kept short so you don't enter the deeper stages of sleep and negatively affect your nighttime sleep schedule. So, you should only nap when you need that extra energy boost!

Pro Tip: Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night for a healthy lifestyle, so make sure your mattress is the best fit for your sleep!

How Long Should You Nap

Woman napping at work with alarm clock in hand; indicative of napping duration

The length of your nap depends on how you feel. As we said before, the goal is to take shorter naps. However, there are benefits to each different type of nap.

  • Power Nap (10 to 20 minutes): provides a quick jolt of alertness and vigor and helps improve your cognitive function.
  • Groggy Nap (30 minutes): might make you feel groggy due to the sleep inertia settling in, where parts of your body are still in states of rest.
  • Caffeine Nap (around 30 minutes): to avoid feeling groggy, drink caffeine right before your nap and set your alarm for 30 minutes; the caffeine will kick in by the time you wake up to give you that extra jolt!
  • Short Term Nap (60 minutes): brushes the beginnings of a deep sleep cycle, which is excellent for retaining information like facts, places you've been, and names and faces.
  • REM Nap (90 minutes): goes through an entire sleep cycle, complete with dreams, to help improve creativity and emotional memory and increase procedural memory (great for learning new skills!)

Pro Tip: For adults, the best nap duration is either the 20-minute power nap or the longer REM 90-minute nap!

Ideal Napping Time

The second essential factor to the perfect nap is when you take your nap. If you nap too late in the day, you can interfere with your regular sleep schedule by not feeling tired by your bedtime. So, typically the ideal time for people to nap is around eight or more hours before bedtime (before 3 pm for regular shift folks!).

It's best to plan your naps around the post-lunch dip, also known as the afternoon slump, between 1 pm and 3 pm. This is also when your circadian rhythm declares it's sleepy other than your bedtime.

Napping Like a Pro

Woman napping on the couch with eye mask on

With the ideal duration and time in mind, it's time to take the most refreshing nap possible! To do that, you'll need to follow these key steps:

  • Plan Ahead: If you wake up exhausted, you'll know you need a nap later in the day, so plan the when and where for your nap.
  • Shorter is Better: Set a goal for 20 minutes (or 90 minutes if you have the time) to help you feel recharged.
  • Set the Alarm: The best way to keep your nap shorts is by setting the alarm or timer, but don't forget to factor in how long it'll take you to actually fall asleep or drift off. So instead of a 20-minute alarm, maybe set it for 30 instead!
  • Nap Earlier: Don't nap after 3 pm, or you'll risk affecting your regular sleeping schedule (unless you're a night shift worker, aim for 1.5 to 3 hours before your shift begins!).
  • Cozy Environment: The best napping environment is cool, quiet, and dark, so if you work from home, your bedroom is an ideal place unless you fall too deep asleep, in which case you should move to the couch. But if you're in the office, use earplugs or an eye mask to reduce disruptions.
  • Clear Your Mind: Take a minute to clear your mind before napping, either with meditation, guided yoga, or journaling, so you're in a calm enough mood to drift off.

Keep At It!

Woman relaxing on couch with music

Let's say you've tried all the tips, and you're not feeling the benefits. Does that mean you should stop trying? No! By continuing to practice napping, the more you train your brain to drift off quickly and get that quick boost of energy. So, avoid any self-induced guilt or pressure from not falling asleep right away — that ruins the point of napping!

So, try experimenting with the proper settings, timing, duration, and location before giving up on naps for good. And think of keeping a nap kit with you that includes an eye mask, ear plugs, neck pillow, and a soft blanket, so you always have the right conditions. Even if you lie down for a spell, that "nonsleep dozing" is enough to positively affect your mood and fatigue.

Note: Around 34 percent of U.S. adults are reported to be taking a nap during any given day! That's a lot!

Snooze Away!

There you have it — the ultimate guide to the perfect nap! Taking that small break in your day makes a big difference. But you shouldn't substitute napping for real sleep if you're constantly exhausted. Instead, make sure your mattress is in good shape! A bad (or old) mattress is usually the biggest obstacle for good sleep, so don't wait; check out our selection at Crane's Mattress!

And if you have any questions, give us a call! We know how important good sleep is, and we'll make sure you get yours!