How Long Should You Nap?

Image result for napping

image source:

I think we can all agree that naps are a wonderful thing. I fondly look back upon the days in which nap time was encouraged; oh how I took it for granted!  Whether accidental or on purpose, napping is a way to re-energize yourself after not getting enough sleep.


Image result for when you wake up meme

image source:

While napping is great, I think we’ve all had those naps where you wake up and don’t know where you are, what year it is, or what your own name is. You look at the clock and five hours have gone by and you’ve missed dinner. These naps tend to do more harm than good, seeing as they make you feel groggy and less alert. So, what is the best amount of time to take a nap for to improve alertness? Well, there have been many studies done on this, especially about people who work night-shifts, so I’m going to look at some of these studies and try to come to a conclusion.

In a study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 31 adults participated in a randomized experiment. The subjects were randomized into three groups: a group that would receive a 10 minute nap during  a simulated night shift, a group that would receive a 30 minute nap, and a control group that would not get any nap. This experiment was conducted over three days. The subjects were tested for alertness at the beginning and end of their “shifts”, and before and after their naps for alertness and cognitive abilities. The study found that those who took the 30 minute naps or no naps had decreased performance on the tests for alertness, with p-values <.015 and <001, respectively, while those taking 10 minute naps had the same level of performance. The results from this study suggest that a 10 minute nap is more beneficial for staying alert. Although it is a properly designed randomized control trial, I feel if the sample size was larger it could really make the results more reliable.

This study, published by the Journal of American College Health, focused on the napping patterns of college students. It was an observational study 440 college undergrad student participants. The students were asked to report  the length of their naps, the time when they took the nap, and how often they napped per week. They also reported the quality of their nighttime sleep according to the PSQI. The study concluded that those who took naps longer than 2 hours more than three times a week had poor quality night time sleep. Obviously since this is an observational study, we cannot rule out confounding variables. In addition, the results of this study are self reported, which could result in faulty data. Despite these flaws, I still think the results demonstrate that longer naps do more harm than good for alertness.

Based off of the studies I mentioned, I think that the length of a nap meant to improve alertness should be short and should probably be between 10 and 20 minutes. It seems that power napping is the way to go to improve alertness, and that those long naps should be saved for weekends with Netflix.


6 thoughts on “How Long Should You Nap?

  1. Maura Katherine Maguire

    Really awesome post, well written and fun to read. Completely relevant to my current situation considering I have never napped more than since I got here. Prior to college I hated naps due to the confusing feeling they leave you with after you wake up ( I literally forget what day it is). However ever since I got here I depend on my daily nap and find it hard to get through the day without it. It really makes me wonder though if this nap is benefitting me or just causing me more trouble? Awesome post, really got me thinking.

  2. Kameron Villavicencio

    I’m currently on a role with commenting on posts about sleep and it is ironically keeping me awake. I can jump on the bandwagon and definitely say that I feel better when I take shorter naps. Sometimes I even feel better if I simply shut my eyes. I never try to do this, but sometimes I can’t fall asleep for the given 30 minutes I’ve allowed myself and I have someplace to be. I would love to see some extensive experimental studies done on this topic of naps. I believe that the information gained from the results would be very beneficial to college students. However, I googled “science of naps” and the very first things that comes up is an excerpt from an article published in the Wall Street Journal that talks of how longer naps can be better for processing memories, while short naps are great for a boost of energy. The more I read this article in the Wall Street Journal, the more I want to do my own post on it. But in summation, the article is about the specific benefits each length of nap can have and despite initially grogginess post nap, longer naps could retain sharpness for longer after grogginess. Overall, naps are more complicated than one might initially think, and it’s not merely a long vs short debate.

  3. sjb6039

    This post is very relatable as I frequently taken naps throughout the past several years. However, recently since college started I found that I tend to skip out more on naps since I am busy and rely on coffee to keep me going instead. Now I wonder, is it better for us to nap or drink coffee to be reenergized? Clinical psychologist Michael Breus states that it is more beneficial for someone to take a twenty minute nap than drinking a cup of coffee. His reasoning is that naps energize you for a longer period of time whereas caffeine can wear off or the body can form a tolerance to it. It is concluded that naps are superior to coffee, but if someone doesn’t have the time to take a nap, coffee can have similar effects for a certain amount of time.

    Micheal Breus article on Naps vs. Caffeine:

  4. Sarah Tarczewski

    Just today I took a nap that ended up lasting around an hour. When I woke up, I had a headache, was nauseous, and felt no more rested than I was before I began my nap. Reading your post certainly explains why exactly that was, as I most likely interrupted my REM sleep or some other part of the cycle that didn’t leave me feeling refreshed in the least. Although a 10-20 minute nap is difficult to achieve, that will definitely be my goal from now on. I also appreciate you acknowledge the sometimes faulty results that arise in self reported studies.

  5. Alexander Nicholas Cautela

    I have heard from a variety of sources that naps approximately 10-15 minutes in length are ideal. But falling asleep quickly is something I have always struggled with. Sometimes when I nap, i set my alarm for this amount of time, but most times I end up hearing my alarm before I can fall out of consciousness. It doesn’t seem very reasonable to me to fall asleep within this short amount of time. Perhaps when scientists say that 10-15 minute naps are ideal, they mean 10-15 minutes of SHUT-EYE or simply uninterrupted REST.
    I wonder if it is best for all people to nap, regardless of how much they sleep. In other words, should the student who sleeps 8-9 hours each night need to take a nap? Would there be any benefit? Check out my last article if you’re interested in the topic of sleep. I talk about sleep deprivation, and the benefits to a good night’s rest.

  6. Wesley Scott Alexander

    Chelsea, I found this post very interesting as well as relatable. Naps can be great, but when you wake up groggy and disoriented, losing large chunks of your day, they can begin to greatly affect your productivity as well as your energy levels. this article states that while humans have a cultural sleep pattern of one long period of sleep and one long period of wakefulness, we are not really certain if this is our natural sleep pattern. In fact, certain evidence points to humans’ natural pattern being brief periods of sleep throughout the day. However, the same article corroborates your conclusion that the optimal nap time is around 20 minutes, as the study states the optimal time is 20-30, which lines up with my personal experience that if you nap for longer than this you end up feeling groggy and disoriented.

Leave a Reply