Best length of Time for a Power Nap
Increased productivity, better memory, lower stress levels and lower risk of heart disease. These are just some of the benefits of regular napping. But how long should a power nap actually last? - In this guide, we explore the best length of time for a nap which allows you to quickly “recharge your batteries” without disrupting your sleep cycle.
To find out what the best length of time is for a nap is, let’s first look at what the sleep phases look like and what processes occur during each of them:
Sleep phases are states of the brain involving its electrical activity. We distinguish two sleep phases:
- NREM (non-rapid eye movement, consists of 4 stages)
- REM (rapid eye movement, consists of 1 stage)
The sleep cycle begins with the 4 stages of the NREM phase and ends with REM sleep. The order of the sleep stages is as follows:
NREM1 → NREM2 → NREM3 → NREM4 → REM
The entire cycle takes about 90 to 100 minutes and repeats about 5 times during nighttime sleep.
What sleep stage do we want to enter during a power nap?
What happens during stage 2NREM sleep?
In the second stage of NREM sleep, eye movements gradually disappear, and muscle tension drops to minimal levels. Moreover, your body temperature drops significantly, and your heart rate slows down. During this sleep stage, the brain will start to cleanse itself of toxins, which will make you feel “fresh” after waking up, as after drinking a strong cup of coffee.It’s not so easy to wake up from 2NREM as you stop reacting to all outside stimuli. Therefore, having an alarm clock handy when power napping is indispensable.
The 2NREM sleep stage usually lasts about 25 minutes but may last as short as 10 (especially for older/sick people).
The best length of time for a power nap
So far, we have reviewed the different phases of sleep and their stages. The next question is how much time does it take to enter the second stage of NREM sleep but avoid getting into the third stage. Or, in other words — what is the best duration for a nap without waking up tired?
Develop your nap routine
“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep”, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, US National Institutes of Health, 2017
“Power Sleep”, Dr. James B. Maas, 1998
“Siestas and your heart: Can you nap your way to health?”, Harvard Medical School, 2008
“Day-to-day variability in sleep parameters and depression risk: a prospective cohort study of training physicians”, Daniel B. Forger, Elena Frank, Srijan Sen, Cathy Goldstein, 2021
“Older People Sleep Less. Now We Know Why”, Anna Almendrala, 2014