Getting the Most Out of Your Nap

As a college student, I’m constantly being bombarded with homework, tests, meetings, papers, chores, and various social events. It’s hard to keep track of these things and it’s even harder to stay on top of them without losing some sleep. Due to this lack of sleep, I find myself frequently passing out for an hour or so at a time from exhaustion. After I wake up from these naps, I find that I feel just as tired as before, sometimes with an added headache or nausea. I know a lot of people say a 20 minute nap is best, but I wanted to look deeper into that and the reasons behind it. The null hypothesis of this search would be that naps have no effect on the body, whereas the alternative hypothesis is that naps effect the body in some way.

The Mayo Clinic is a reputable organization, so I turned to them for my first source. They first detailed the pros and cons of a nap. The pros included the obvious: reduced fatigue, improved mood, and improved performance (among some other things). The cons were sleep inertia (feelings of grogginess) and problems with sleeping at night, which is obvious if you’re doing all your sleeping during the daytime. The Mayo Clinic stressed the fact that certain disorders and illnesses will lead to an increase in fatigue, so if you find yourself tired frequently for no obvious reason, you may want to consult your doctor. The Mayo Clinic confirmed my hypothesis in that in recommends a 10-30 minute nap. They also recommend you nap in the early afternoon, so as to not interfere with your night sleep cycle. However, I did not get any reason why this is.

Scientific American discussed that why. As many people know, we undergo different cycles as we sleep. Most of our night is spent in non-REM sleep, where we relax, our body goes through recovery, and our hormones regulate. REM sleep (or rapid eye movement sleep) happens after about 90 or so minutes of being asleep and although our brains are awake, our bodies become immobilized. Scientific American asserts that waking during these 90 minute cycles of REM sleep is what causes our sleep inertia.

A study performed by NASA found that a 40 minute nap enhanced pilot performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. British researchers also performed a study in 2008 that corroborated that a short (20 minute) afternoon nap was more effective than caffeine in improving people’s performance in deal with the “afternoon hump”. In this study, 20 healthy adults who were screened for their usual night’s sleep were split into two groups that either received a nap or caffeine, and then were given two tests to measure their performance.

Conclusively, it seems that if you are able to nap within the time frame of 10-40 minutes, you should go for that nap as it seems to raise your performance and lessen your fatigue. If you’re a longer napper, like me, you should set your alarm or perhaps cut naps out all together as you could be doing more harm than good to your body.

3 thoughts on “Getting the Most Out of Your Nap

  1. jrg5625


    I found your post to be very interesting because I suffer from the SAME PROBLEM. I was never a napper. I always hated naps because they made me feel more fatigued than I originally felt before the nap. Naps screw up my entire schedule. I don’t get much sleep being involved in so many different things at this school, so how can I master a nap schedule so great that I can look happy and feel energized all day? I ask myself this question everyday. I have yet to find THE answer. But I have found a few ways to better my sleeping habits. Like doing anything else in my life, through trial and error I will find the solution that works best for me.

    Option #1:


    *These are all things I have stopped. However, as college will have it, I am still finding myself constantly busy.

    Option #1 revised:

    Prepare for future exams/quizzes by making note cards after each class session. Review them everyday, each day including the cards from the day before.
    Prepare healthy meals for the week ahead of time. Make sure you are taking in all the necessary nutrients a healthy diet requires.
    Practice time management with each obligation you have throughout the day. Allot the necessary amount of time to complete each task.
    Going to bed at a reasonable hour = waking up at a reasonable hour- giving you plenty of time to be as productive as possible during your day.
    Make time to see your friends to relieve stress. Just DON’T OVER DO IT.

    After trial and error, I found that the new option #1 seems to be working out really well. I have a routine and I stick with it. Now I seem to be feeling less stressed and naps are nonexistent for me.I don’t need them anymore. My days are much more productive and much more enjoyable than they were before. I recommend this plan to everyone struggling with being tired all of the time.

    Here is an article you may find to be an interesting read:

    The article above discusses how a proper diet and daily routine can improve levels of fatigue and better your days. We are what we eat- that’s just some food for thought. Pun intended…

    I found your post to be very well written and also intriguing. You included an appropriate amount of detail and included reputable sources to support your topic. I thought your post was very well organized and was overall cohesive. Great job!

    -Julia Rose Gallelli

  2. Hannah Curran

    I enjoyed reading this because i know that technically naps are only supposed to be 10-30 minutes long but I never knew why until now. I personally take like three hour naps, but that ends up making everything worse and just makes me go to bed later in the long run causing me to nap again the next day. I don’t like taking short naps because I feel like it takes me at least 15 minutes to fall asleep in the first place, but maybe i should try setting my alarm for 40 minutes instead.

  3. Lauren Eve Ribeiro

    Personally I have never been a napper because I always find that it is so hard to wake up from a nap, so I just save myself the struggle and don’t take any. Like you mentioned in your article, when I start to feel down or sleepy I always grab a cup of coffee. I’m actually really happy that I read your blog because I now know that instead of grabbing that coffee I should nap for around a half hour. I think this will become important during finals week. I would be interested to see a study that showed how people performed on exams during finals week (when they are exhausted) regarding if they drank caffeine or just took a quick nap.

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