Many people, young and old, swear by the afternoon nap. But is it really good to sleep at this time of day? And how do you make sure that this sleep break benefits your mental and physical fitness to the fullest?
Good news for nap enthusiasts: a lot of research shows that a micro-nap – or flash nap or “power nap” – in the afternoon brings many benefits, and this at any age.
The benefits of napping
The benefits of a short nap vary depending on the individuals and the “quality” of the nap. Here are the main ones:
- Improved alertness, reaction time and concentration. NASA research shows that pilots are more alert for more than two hours after a 25-minute nap than when they are not sleeping.
- Improved productivity: the time you “lose” while sleeping is compensated by a better yield afterwards.
- Improved memory and learning ability. This is especially true for young children.
- Positive effect on stress management.
- Positive influence on subjective feelings of fatigue and drowsiness.
- Prevention of car accidents during long journeys.
- Positive effect on mental well-being.
- Positive effect on blood pressure.
Be careful, you can not compensate for a sleep deficit of several hours by a nap in the afternoon.
When is the best time to take a nap in the afternoon?
Studies contradict each other on this point. Perhaps it differs from person to person and from the actual circumstances of napping. That being said, the best time for most people is in the early afternoon, when the normal circadian biorhythm experiences a slight dip. In addition, it is better not to sleep after 3 p.m., as this can disrupt nighttime sleep.
What is the optimal duration of a nap?
Again, the studies contradict each other. It probably also varies from person to person. However, there is more or less agreement that the afternoon nap should not last more than half an hour.
- It is usually recommended to take a nap of about 10 to 20 minutes. For some people, a 5-minute nap already has a beneficial effect.
- Those who sleep more than half an hour run the risk of falling into deep sleep and waking up dizzy (“sleep inertia”), with the need for more time to be active again. In addition, it can disrupt nighttime sleep.
- If you are afraid of sleeping too long, set an alarm clock and ring it after half an hour.
Where is the best place to take a nap?
It is important that you are not disturbed while you sleep. A disturbed nap negates all the benefits. So try to find a quiet environment, preferably without annoying noises and with dim lighting.