You don’t need to take brain supplements to boost its health. All you need to do is to nap. In this article I will cover the brain benefits of napping and what is the perfect nap length for the biggest brain benefits.
You may feel guilty when you feel the urge to nap during a workday. Although napping at work is often taboo, emerging scientific evidence suggests that naps – even very short ones – significantly enhance cognitive function and productivity, as well as other benefits.
What are the benefits of naps?
1. Cognitive function – did it ever happen to you that you were struggling for hours with a problem, and then when you rested your eyes for a short time you suddenly found the answer and things became clearer? In these cases your brain feels refreshed, stimulated and more alert, and your attention and concentration are improved. A small U.S study found that the right side of our brain, that is associated with creativity, had busier activity while napping than the left side of the brain which remained relatively quiet.
It’s no wonder that naps are beneficial for us. During the day we are exposed to a lot of information, and napping protects the brain from overuse and help it to absorb new information, so learning and memory are improved.
2. Naps also make up for sleep disorders – I’ve written in the past about the 23 dangers of sleep deprivation, so if you suffer from insomnia or have problems to fall asleep, then short naps will help you to feel more alert and will enable you to function better. As a side note – if you any issues falling asleep, you can read my other post about the best foods to get better sleep.
3. They relax you – the stress hormone cortisol dramatically drops after napping.
What is the best nap length?
The ideal duration of a nap is still being debated, and the most useful nap depends on what the napper needs or wants to achieve.
Napping can be broken down into few stages:
1. A short power nap of 10-20 minutes is good for a quick improvement of your alertness and energy level and will enable you to get back to work quickly.
2. A nap of about 30 minutes will provide you a mental sharpness similar to the 10-20 minute nap, with that sharpness lasting a bit longer, but the downside is that people tend to feel groggy immediately after this kind of nap.
3. A longer nap of 60 minutes is good to process cognitive memory (such as faces, names and facts), but the downside is some grogginess upon waking.
4. A long nap of 90 or more – this can provide you a full sleep cycle which improves procedural memory (such as riding a bike or playing the piano) and creativity. Waking up after it usually has minimal amount of grogginess.
When taking shorter naps, it is recommended to sleep partially upright to make it easier to wake up and to avoid falling into a deeper sleep. Another trick to waking up perky after a short nap is to drink a cup of coffee before sleeping. Caffeine won’t hurt such a short break and should lessen the effect of grogginess.
So to summarize, if you are looking for a quick boost or recharge, you are looking at a short nap of about 10-20 minutes. However if you are looking for deeper sleep rejuvenation, you are looking at a longer nap of about 60-90 minutes.
What is the ideal time for napping?
Most of us feel tired between 1 and 4 pm, so try to fit your nap during those hours. Don’t make it later otherwise it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at bedtime.
So if your boss caught you napping at work, now you will know how to defend yourself and your napping habit, or next time just try to nap out of sight…