Difficulty falling and staying asleep is one of the chief complaints adults in the United States and many other countries in the world face.
For this reason, many people resort to taking a power nap during the day after a poor night of sleep.
But, what is a power nap? How long should a power nap be? Is a 20-minute nap the optimal power nap length? And, what are some tips for how to take a power nap and fall asleep quickly?
In this power naps guide, we will discuss what power naps are, the optimal power nap length, benefits, and tips for how to take a power nap so that you fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling energized and rejuvenated instead of groggy and in a daze.
We will look at:
- What Is a Power Nap?
- How Long Should a Power Nap Be?
- What Are the Benefits of A Power Nap?
- Tips for How to Take a Power Nap
Let’s get started!
What Is a Power Nap?
A power nap is a daytime nap that generally lasts no more than 30 minutes.
There isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule about the power nap length, but most sleep experts suggest that power naps are less than 30 minutes; beyond a power nap length of 30 minutes, you move into the “regular nap“ territory instead of a power nap.
Thus, what distinguishes power naps from any daytime nap is the shorter power nap length.
The benefit of power naps vs regular naps is that the short duration of power naps is said to help give you just enough rest so that you feel energized and restored without disrupting your nighttime sleep routine.People may take power naps on a consistent basis to supplement nighttime sleeping, or they may take an occasional 20-minute nap after a night of poor sleep.
Also, they may take a prophylactic power nap heading into an overnight shift at work or some anticipated lack of sleep in the upcoming night.
Although there aren’t statistics that look specifically at the prevalence of power napping habits, according to the Pew Research Center, about one in three American adults take naps during the day.
How Long Should a Power Nap Be?
As mentioned, the power nap length is generally capped at 30 minutes, according to sleep experts.
However, there isn’t a universal consensus on the ideal power nap length, though many sleep researchers and sleep experts suggest that a 20-minute nap is the best power nap length.
The reason that you do not want to take a power nap longer than 20 to 30 minutes is that the body will start transitioning into the deep sleep phase after this time, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Then, if you try to wake up from a power nap longer than 20 to 30 minutes, you may find yourself feeling groggy, disoriented, and slow to wake up and feel “normal“ again.
This is because rousing yourself out of the deep sleep phase is much more difficult than if you are in light sleep or REM sleep.
The reason for this is because of “sleep inertia,” which is a state that describes how your brain and body interpret the need to sleep more once you’ve entered deep sleep, resulting in drowsiness or grogginess if you are woken up during deep sleep.
Therefore, the ideal power nap length is right around 20 minutes, or potentially up to 25 to 30 minutes, because this short sleep duration will help keep you in the lighter sleep stages.
Then, you won’t have to overcome sleep inertia and fight grogginess upon waking from a nap that has gone too long and allowed you to enter deep sleep.
What Are the Benefits of a Power Nap?
As long as you learn how to take a power nap correctly and abide by the optimal power nap length recommendations, there are several potential benefits of power naps.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are several benefits of taking daytime naps, as long as you nap “correctly.“
The suggested benefits of napping include helping you feel more alert and less fatigued, helping you improve productivity if you had poor sleep the night before, increasing focus, decreasing reaction time, boosting memory, and improving athletic performance.
The problem with regular napping is that if you nap too long, it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night at your normal bedtime.
This can set off a cycle where you end up going to bed later and later or sleeping poorly at night because you have napped too long in the day, which then leaves you feeling sluggish and tired.
Then, you may feel like you need another long nap during the day in order to recover and catch up on the sleep you missed at night.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a range of negative side effects of energy drinks and other stimulants used to fight fatigue, including irritability, headaches, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, and insomnia.
It is important to mention that while taking power naps can boost energy, improve focus, and fight fatigue, daytime naps are not recommended for everyone.
If you suffer from insomnia, napping during the daytime can exacerbate your issues and cause further disruption to your sleep cycles at night.
Note that even though there may be some helpful power nap benefits, and you might feel more energized and refreshed after a 20 minute nap, adding a power nap to your daily routine should not replace the focus on getting a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours of sleep per night).
Tips for How to Take a Power Nap
Here are some tips for how to have the best power naps:
#1: Set an alarm for 20 minutes.
A 20-minute nap will be short enough that you won’t fall into a deep sleep and wake up groggy.
#2: Don’t take a power nap too close to bedtime.
Napping too soon before bed can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and stick with your normal sleep schedule.
Instead, take a power nap in the early afternoon or halfway between the hour that you wake up in the morning and the time that you plan to go to sleep at night.
For example, if you wake up at 6 AM and go to bed at 10 PM, you should take your power nap around 2 PM.
#3: Optimize sleep hygiene.
Learning how to take power naps can take some practice to train your body to fall asleep fast enough so that you get the power nap benefits without needing to extend the power nap length.
You can help facilitate your ability to fall asleep during a short power nap by optimizing your sleep environment.
Using a mask or black-out curtains to make the room dark, lie down on your bed or a comfortable couch with a good pillow, and keep your bedroom or napping room nice and cool.
You can use a fan or white noise machine to block out sounds so that you can tune out the world and get some sleep.
#4: Time your caffeine.
Having caffeine in your system can interfere with your ability to fall asleep, even if you feel tired. Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours, so try to avoid a mid-morning coffee if you plan to take a power nap in the early afternoon.
If you usually have 2 cups of coffee per day or a second caffeinated drink after your morning coffee, you can try a “caffeine nap“ for your power nap.
A caffeine nap refers to drinking a cup of coffee or a caffeinated beverage immediately before your nap and then lying down right away.
Because it takes a little bit of time for the liver to metabolize the caffeine, you can take a 20-minute power nap before the caffeine really hits your bloodstream.
This will give you a good window of time when you are still drowsy, and then the caffeine will start to kick in right around the time that you are getting up from your nap and want to get back to work or feel energized for the rest of the day.
If you find that you are sleeping plenty of hours every night but still feel tired enough that you want to incorporate a 20-minute power nap into your routine, check out our guide to the risks of oversleeping here.