Working with teenagers, I often hear about their routine after school naps and then their groans at my attempts to shorten or eliminate them. In many cases, these several hour naps will interfere with the sleep cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep at night. It creates a problem in that teens can’t sleep at night and then have to nap to make up the sleep debt after school.
So here is what sleep experts say about length of naps:
1. Ten to Twenty minute naps are ideal because the body doesn’t go into deep REM sleep so it is much easier to get up and moving with this short nap. These power naps create a boost in energy and increased alertness without the individual being groggy afterwards and struggling to get back into the routine.
2. Thirty minute naps are restorative but present a challenge upon waking with overcoming the grogginess to reengage in your routine. This groggy feeling can last up to thirty minutes before the restorative benefit of the nap kicks in. Not a great option if you have to go right into a meeting or get in the car to pick up Johnny from school.
3. Sixty minute naps will improve your ability to remember facts, faces and names. But again, this sleep will be accompanied by grogginess when awakening. This sleep is characterized as slow wave sleep which is also a deep sleep unlike the twenty minute naps that are non REM, light sleep.
4. Ninety minute naps involve a full cycle of sleep, including light sleep as well as the restorative deep REM phase where an individual may even dream (maybe about work disappearing upon awakening). Unlike the other naps, this one is much easier to awake from without the grogginess. Naps of this length lead to improved emotional and procedural memory as well as creativity.
So, in conclusion, the best and most realistic nap for most of us is 20 minutes. However, if time allows, the 90 minute nap will do the most to restore memory, increase energy and alertness and even improve creativity. A word of caution, though. Napping too late in the day may create challenges with sleep at bedtime, thereby increasing the stress that you just slept away. So now that you have the facts, “Happy Napping All”! I'm going to head to my couch to take a quick 20 minute snooze!