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Published on June 19, 2019

What’s the Best Nap Length for the Biggest Brain Benefit?

What’s the Best Nap Length for the Biggest Brain Benefit?

Would you like to know the secret to the perfect nap? Are you wondering the best nap length or the perfect amount of z’s to catch up on some much needed sleep, feel amazing and help your brain function better? We’ve done some research and found some solutions, so if so, please read on!

We all know that children need naps, and if you are a parent, you well know the importance of naps for your kids: a properly timed nap can make or break the rest of the day and everything can go straight down hill if an afternoon nap is missed. Sometimes less sleep can make getting to sleep at be time even more of a struggle. Kids tend to need more sleep than adults however the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep per night – suffice to say, most people in the modern world do not get enough on a regular basis.

In this article, I’ll cover the benefits of napping and the best nap length to experience its benefits.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep plays an absolute vital role in our overall health, and our cells renew and regenerate when our bodies go through sleep cycles. Physically and mentally, the function of sleep helps us heal and work through illness and stress so we can wake up fully functional.

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Needless to say, sleep deprivation over time can alter immune function, affecting the body’s immunity and decreasing the efficacy of the killer T cells (important in irradicating disease). Adequate sleep may help fight certain cancers, enhance and protect cardiovascular health, decrease irritability, and can even affect metabolism and weight.[1]

It’s fairly obvious that we need to make sleep – proper sleep that is, a priority in our lives for the sake of our health. It’s often insinuated that those who prioritize sleep are somehow lazy or not driven, but that is clearly not the case. In fact, getting the right amount of sleep seems to help us function much more effectively in our day to day lives, so its well worth the effort to fit it in.

Due to the ethical limits on research on human subject, science really has no specific evidence on just what happens when people lose sleep beyond a few days. The likelihood is, that we simply could not live without it.[2]

Benefits of Napping

For those of us who have the luxury of being able to nap, we know it feels like a wonderful thing – curling up on the couch with a blanket on a blustery day, all cozy and warm – we don’t need science to tell us that, but can it really help recharge our brain? The research says yes.

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If we don’t get an adequate amount of sleep at night, a daytime nap just may improve alertness and motor performance. A nap may also help improve reasoning and reaction time, but the best part? A nap could even improve our mood![3]

Take a look at this article to find out more about the benefits of napping: 3 Ways Napping Boosts Your Brain Power (And How To Maximize The Benefits)

What’s the Best Nap Length?

The question remains – how long should we nap? In fact, there are a few optimal nap lengths depending on your available time and desired outcome.

  • If you are feeling an afternoon lull and just need a quick refresh in alertness, 10 to 20 minutes is your optimal goal, just a quick recharge to help you get through that last meeting of the day or bout of emails sitting in your inbox.
  • Feeling frustrated, stressed or need to remember some important points from a book you are reading, and have a bit more time to kill? A 60 minute nap showed a decrease in impulsivity, a greater tolerance to frustration as well as helped with cognitive memory processing. Some research showed even a small amount of sleep could potentially help reinforce learned material!
  • Overwhelmed and exhausted and need a total reset? 90 minutes enhanced creativity, emotional and procedural memory and allows for a complete cycle of sleep – which may result in less of that groggy feeling you may get with a shorter nap.

Dr. Sara Mednick, PhD, believes we may get the same learning enhancement benefits in a 90 minute nap as we do in an eight hour sleep period.[4]

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When to Nap?

So we know how long to nap, now when exactly should we nap? There are likely days when a nap could come in handy right after you get up or right before bed, but these are not the best choices. It all depends on if you are an early morning riser or a night owl.

For early risers, around 1PM is best; for the night owls, around 3PM is better. Keep in mind though, to try not to sleep much later than 4 to 4:30PM, or you could risk having trouble getting to sleep at bed time.

Regular napping has shown a decrease in overall stress for some people, thus could also reduce the risk of heart attack / heart disease, stroke, and excessive weight gain.

Bonus Tips on Napping

Need to be awake and going immediately after a power nap? Drink some coffee (or something caffeinated) just before a 20 to 30 minute snooze and by the time you wake up the caffeine will have had time to kick in and you’ll be ready to go!

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Here are some tips to make napping easier:

  • Pull the blinds, make the area dark.
  • Get cozy – make sure you are warmly dressed or have a warm blanket.
  • Do some stretches prior to your nap.
  • Don’t stress it if you can’t sleep – the rest is helpful either way.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the best nap length that will give your brain the biggest bang for your buck, it’s time to put napping into your routine.

Whether you’re an early rise or a night owl trying to get a quick refresh or productivity boost, find a time that fits you to take nap to reap its benefits.

Featured photo credit: STEPHANIE MONTELONGO via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Importance of Sleep : Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: Repaying your sleep debt
[3] American Psychological Association: The Science of Nap
[4] Dr. Sara Medinick PhD: Take a Nap

More by this author

Laura Barr

Laura is a registered clinical massage therapist & certified fitness consultant specializing in holistic nutrition, injury & weight management.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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