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Health and Wellbeing

How Long Should a Nap Be?

Munhil Imran

Munhil Imran

30th November, 2023

Man resting his eyes, ready for a nap.

What are the benefits of a nap?

A nap is a short period of sleep that many choose to have during the day. For many, naps help to maintain alertness or overcome daytime fatigue and can deliver a number of benefits. Especially after a night of insufficient sleep, a nap may counteract daytime drowsiness. Knowing the facts about napping can help determine whether to take naps, and tips for better naps can enable healthier napping habits.

“In today’s busy world, napping can be very beneficial and can even improve the quality of your sleep. A nap can help to remove some of the over-stimulation and agitation of the day before you get into bed at night, thus making for a better night’s sleep.” - ‘The Benefits of Taking a Nap’ by Sleep Expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Woman feeling refreshed after taking a nap

So how long should a nap be and what are the benefits of a nap? A nap can have several benefits for both physical and mental well-being - below we list some of the advantages of including naps into your daily routine:

Increased alertness and performance

A short nap of about 20-30 minutes can help improve alertness, concentration, and performance. It can be especially beneficial for tasks that require sustained attention and focus.

Enhanced learning and memory

Napping has been linked to improve memory, helping you better retain and recall information. It can be particularly useful for students and individuals engaged in cognitive tasks.

Mood improvement

Naps can have a positive impact on mood and emotional well-being. A brief nap can help ease feelings of irritability and improve overall mood.

Stress reduction

Taking a nap can help reduce stress and encourage further relaxation. It provides a break from the demands of the day, allowing the body and mind to recharge.

Improved physical performance

Athletes often use napping as a strategy to enhance physical performance and recovery. A short nap can contribute to improved reaction time, coordination, and overall athletic abilities.

Cardiovascular health

Some studies suggest that regular napping may have cardiovascular benefits, such as lower blood pressure. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects.

Reduced fatigue

If you're feeling tired or fatigued during the day, a nap can provide a quick energy boost, helping you feel more refreshed and ready to tackle tasks.

Image of someone getting their blood pressure checked.

How long should a nap be for adults

In general, the best nap length for adults is about 20 minutes and no longer than 30 minutes. Sleeping for 20 minutes allows the napper to get a bit of light sleep to boost alertness without entering into deep sleep. Waking up from deep sleep can cause grogginess and actually worsen sleepiness. Below are some general guidelines based on different nap lengths and answers to how long should a nap be for adults for better health benefits:

Ultra-short nap (1-5 minutes)

Known as a "power nap," this brief nap can provide a quick energy boost and increased alertness. It's ideal when you need a momentary pick-me-up but want to avoid entering deeper sleep stages.

Short nap (10-20 minutes)

This duration is often recommended for a quick refresh without experiencing sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling you might get if you wake up from a deeper sleep stage. Short naps can enhance alertness, mood, and performance.

Moderate nap (20-30 minutes)

A slightly longer nap may include a full cycle of light sleep, which can aid memory and creativity. It's still short enough to minimise the risk of sleep inertia.

Longer nap (60-90 minutes)

This duration allows for a full sleep cycle, including both non-REM and REM sleep. Longer naps can enhance memory consolidation, creativity, and problem-solving skills. However, it's important to note that waking up from a deep sleep stage might result in some grogginess.

You may want to experiment with different nap lengths and observe how your body responds to them. Keeping in mind that regular, quality night time sleep remains the foundation of overall well-being, and napping should complement, not substitute for, a good night's sleep. Ideally, you shouldn’t nap in bed where there is a real risk of you oversleeping but this is the ideal time to use the Oak Tree Rise and Recline chair to set up your perfect, comfortable afternoon nap.

What is the best time to take a nap?

What is the best time to take a nap to increase alertness and productivity? For most people, the best time to take a nap is either just before or during the post-lunch dip. The post-lunch dip is the period of decreased alertness and productivity often experienced after a midday meal. As a result, a brief snooze around 12:30 PM or around 3PM. may reduce afternoon sleepiness.

Early afternoon

The ideal time for a nap is often in the early afternoon, typically between 1PM. and 3PM. This is because your body's natural circadian rhythms can make you feel naturally drowsy during this time.

Keep it short

A short nap of around 10 to 20 minutes is often recommended for a quick energy boost without entering into deep sleep, which can lead to grogginess.

Avoid late afternoon or evening naps

Napping too late in the day, especially in the late afternoon or evening, can interfere with nighttime sleep. It's generally advised to avoid napping after 4PM.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to your body's natural signals. If you're feeling tired or sluggish, a short nap may be beneficial.

Woman with hands on head as she's feeling tired and sluggish.

Napping isn't just a luxury; it's a simple yet powerful way to boost our well-being. From helping us stay alert and improving our mood, to sparking creativity and making our brains work better, naps offer a range of great benefits. Whether you prefer a quick power nap or a longer snooze, finding time to nap can be a game-changer for our daily lives. If you want to know more on what are the benefits of a nap, you can read our blog where our very own Sleep Expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan shares her valuable insights about sleep and rest in her blog ‘Sleeping Well and Feeling Energised as You Get Older’. 

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