Are Naps Good For You?

Are naps healthy? Is taking a power nap better for you than getting a good night’s sleep? How long is the perfect nap? We weigh up the pros and cons of power napping and answer some of your most commonly asked questions.


Are power naps good for you?

It’d be lovely if there was a simple answer to this one – but even the scientists can’t agree. For every study advocating the benefits of a short afternoon snooze, you’ll find another one suggesting that it can be harmful to health and productivity. So why can’t scientists agree? This probably comes down to the many factors that can determine whether a power nap is right for you, as an individual.

The first thing to consider is the reason why you need to nap. Perhaps you’re the parent of a new baby (in which case you might like to look at our sleep advice for new parents), or a shift worker who needs to get some extra shut-eye during the day. Maybe night sweats or allergies are causing you to wake during the night. If, however, you are suddenly experiencing tiredness during the day and there is no obvious external cause, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Instead of building a power nap into your daily routine, it’s worth checking with your doctor first.

Of course, if you do need extra sleep because of disturbances during the night, a power nap can be beneficial for helping you to catch up on restorative ZZZs.

Why do I feel tired after a nap?

Wondering why you wake up from your power nap feeling more tired than when you nodded off? This is related to the phase of sleep you’re in when you wake. During sleep, the body passes through the five different stages of the sleep cycle, moving from light to deep sleep before returning to light sleep and finally waking. To wake feeling refreshed, you need to be in a light sleep phase. By contrast, waking during deep sleep can result in you feeling groggy, sick or tired. It typically takes 70 minutes to reach deep sleep – meaning that if you nap for longer durations, you’re more likely to be woken during deep sleep.

How to nap effectively

In an ideal world, no one would need to nap. While scientists can’t agree on whether power naps are healthy, one thing they do agree on is that the main purpose of a nap is to catch up on sleep missed during the night. In other words, if you can get 7-9 hours of sleep each night you shouldn’t need to take a power nap. But of course, the reality is somewhat different and there are many reasons why getting a good’s night sleep can be a challenge. Even so, your first course of action should be to try and address the underlying cause of your disturbed night’s sleep. Our Sleep Help & Advice section has a selection of articles to help you find solutions to a variety of sleep issues.

If that’s not possible, or you’re still struggling – crying babies and irregular shift patterns can be hard to change – then learning how to nap effectively may help you to feel more refreshed. Here are some top tips to keep in mind:
  • Create the right environment to help you drop off to sleep quickly – cool temperature, wool bedding and cotton sheets can all help. (Learn more about the surprising benefits of wool bedding for sleep.)
  • Keep it short – effective power naps are short snoozes rather than lengthy slumbers, so set an alarm if necessary.
  • Choose early afternoon – too early in the morning and you probably won’t be ready for a snooze; too late in the afternoon and it can disrupt your bedtime routine.

Are you a power napping pro? Or do you believe that a good night’s sleep is the best solution? Why not share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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