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All the Details You Need on How to Nap for Better Energy

Have you ever wondered, "How long of a nap should I take?" You're not alone. Naps can be a wonderful, luxurious way to recharge. In the Skilled Sleeper community, about 50% of people prefer to catch up on their rest with a nap, rather than by sleeping in. Sleeping in can make it more difficult to fall asleep at our usual bedtime, so a nap is a good alternative. There is a science to naps though, to make sure you feel better afterwords, and take the nap is such a way that it doesn’t interfere with your night-time sleep.

Research on naps show some clear gains. These gains happen in a couple different areas. Mood is improved by a nap, as is our energy and alertness. Memory and even learning ability is also improved for a few hours after taking a nap. If you participate in sports or work out, athletic performance and physical recovery is enhanced.

The number of people who are chronically sleep deprived is increasing each decade. It’s currently 36% of people who get only six hours of sleep on work nights. The majority of adults need somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. So if, for whatever reason, you’re not able to get the sleep you need at night, then a nap can be a good idea to get the total sleep you need. Let’s explore the best strategies for taking naps effectively.

Explore more about How to Nap effectively.

Sometimes people have to work at hours that interfere with their natural sleep times. This is the case for people doing shift work. One woman was working an exceptionally early shift, starting at 6:00am, which meant she had to get up at 4:45am, and be on the road to work by 5:30am. She really enjoyed an active social life, but got off work before friends were available, and needed to go to bed very early. So instead she designed a ‘nap lifestyle.’ After work at 2:30pm she’d head home, take a nap from about 3:00-4:30pm, then have energy to have fun with friends until 10pm. This biphasic sleep pattern worked great for her lifestyle. This can also be a terrific routine for teens who aren’t able to fall asleep until late, yet need to wake up early.

The Three Principles of Napping

There are three main principles to plan an effective nap: timing, duration, and some additional considerations too.

1. Timing Your Nap
The timing of your nap is the first consideration. You want to take your nap at the right time so that it doesn’t interfere with your night-time sleep. Our body clock, or circadian rhythm, affects when we feel sleepy, and when we feel alert. When our core body temperature is dropping, we feel sleepy. There’s a small natural dip in our core body temperature around 1 to 2 pm. This is why we often feel sleepy, or a bit of an energy lull, after lunchtime (it happens regardless of what we have for lunch!). So this an ideal time for a nap. To avoid interfering with nighttime sleep, aim to nap earlier in the afternoon, about 1pm. Napping in the late afternoon or evening can make it more difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime.

2. Optimal Nap Duration
Understanding your sleep cycle is crucial. A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 to 110 minutes, transitioning from light sleep, to deep sleep, and back to light sleep. As we move from lighter stages of sleep to deep sleep, the brainwaves slow down and become higher amplitude. The brainwaves of deep sleep are much different from the fast, short brainwaves of waking. Because the brainwaves are so different, it can take about 20 minutes to fully awake from deep sleep. To be fully alert and back to our usual high performance levels. To avoid waking up groggy from deep sleep, keep naps either short (30 minutes or less) or allow for a full sleep cycle (about 90 minutes). Power naps, around 10 minutes, can also boost performance and alertness.

3. Additional Considerations
There are other considerations in the art and science of napping. Play around with these aspects, and see what works best for you.

- Pre-Nap Preparation: Establish a relaxing routine before napping, such as dimming the lights and closing the shades, or changing into comfortable clothes. This can be very helpful, particularly when you plan to take a full, 90 – 100 minute, nap that includes an entire sleep cycle.

- Cat Nap Locations: For short naps, or a ‘cat nap,’ a sofa or armchair can be convenient. You don’t necessarily want to change clothes for such a short nap. For longer naps, use your bed and create a sleep-friendly environment.

- Prepping for Late Nights: If you’re going out for the evening, a pre-event nap can boost your energy and mood, especially after a full day. For example, napping after work on Friday can help you enjoy a night out.


If you feel so profoundly sleepy that you’re falling asleep unintentionally, or feel like you absolutely must nap, it is a good idea to see your licensed healthcare provider. There are medical conditions that can make people have excessive daytime sleepiness. Some of those conditions include thyroid disease, anemia, and cancer. The other caution is that if you are getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, yet still feel like you need a nap during the day, that would also suggest it’s time to consult a licensed healthcare provider.


Naps can enhance your productivity and mood when done right. If you’re not able to get enough sleep each night, it can be a helpful strategy to make sure you remain well-rested. It can also be an effective way to boost your alertness, mood, memory, and physical performance for a few hours. Remember to consider timing, duration, and environment for the best nap experience.

About the Author: Dr. Catherine Darley

Dr. Catherine Darley is a pioneering internationally recognized expert in the use of natural, behavioral and lifestyle medicine for the treatment of sleep disorders. Dr. Darley founded the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine to fill the need for natural, less invasive solutions to a common problem–poor sleep.  

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