According to Sumathi Reddy from The Wall Street Journal, “the perfect nap is a mix of art and science”. But what really is the science behind it?
Our bodies have an alarm clock that works to wake us up in the morning and tells us it is time to go to bed at night. It is the mental alarms that beeps when we know that we have the SAT’s the next day at 7 a.m. and the Nyquil that knocks us out late at night because of school the next day. Scientifically, it is called a circadian rhythm, which is the part of us that responds to light in our environment. The best time to take a nap is between 1 and 4 in the afternoon (Reddy). This way, a person is not napping at a time that is too close to their bedtime or too early after they awoke.
Timing for a nap is important too. Too long of a nap can leave a person feeling as though they are more tired than they were beforehand. This is due to our REM cycles, or rapid eye movement, which is what causes a sleeper to dream. REM hits 5 stages: 1,2,3,4, and REM. The first stage is a 10-minute short and light sleep. The second is where the body relaxes deeper but you are still in a light sleep. The third and fourth stage of REM is where your body completely relaxes into a deep sleep. Once the body reaches REM this is where the most brain activity occurs and when we experience dreams.
If a person wants to makeup lost hours of sleep the best choice is: REM sleep that takes about 90-120 minutes of sleep. This form of sleep will leave a person groggy but will make up for lost time.
If a person is looking for a quick rejuvenation: a short 10-20 minute sleep is preferred.
If a person would like to remember something they have just learned or something forgotten, they should take an hour-long nap.
The overall best nap to take is a 10-minute nap according to Leon Lack, a psychologist who conducted an experiment on the effectiveness of naps.