The Best Way to Nap

We all know that getting a full night's sleep is essential, but what about napping? Should we leave napping for toddlers? Is there a preferred way to nap? Everyday Einstein catches some zzzzz's and gives you 8 strategies to optimize your naps.

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #142

8 Tips for Taking the Best Nap

  1. We reach peak daytime sleepiness in the afternoon, making 2-3pm the ideal time for a nap. If you are an early riser, you may need to shift that time slightly earlier.

  2. If you know you are going to have a late night, take a preemptive nap which are found to be more effective than naps taken once you are already sleep-deprived.

  3. Napping between 10 and 20 minutes is best, and no longer than 30 minutes. Longer naps can cause you to feel groggy, something researchers call sleep inertia.

  4. There are some benefits, however, to naps lasting over 2 hours that allow your brain to go through at least one 90-minute sleep cycle. These longer naps can be restorative, but be careful not to extend your nap too late in the day or you may have trouble falling asleep at night.

  5. Set an alarm so that you can rest easy without worrying whether or not you'll wake up in time for your next meeting or class.

  6. Create a nap-friendly environment. Dim the lights and perhaps add some white noise or some low level classical music, whatever works for you.

  7. Some people swear by the coffee-and-nap combo. Since caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, you can swig a cup of joe and then take a 15-20 minute power nap. If you haven't perfected the art of falling asleep on cue, however, the timing does not leave much wiggle room so you may just end up making your napping efforts futile.

  8. If you find yourself losing sleep at night, cut out the naps! Naps are not for everyone and should never take the place of a full night's sleep.

See also: How to Teach Your Baby to Be a Good Sleeper


Of course, not all of us have the luxury of being able to nap during the day, so if you do, count yourself lucky. Many countries in Europe have adopted an afternoon siesta as part of their culture, and maybe the U.S. should join in. Some companies like Google and Apple already are by allowing their employees to take afternoon naps.

Also, remember that feeling drowsy in the afternoon is normal; it's part of human nature. But more persistant exhaustion might be a sign of something that needs more attention, like anemia, diabetes, or depression.

See also: Why Am I So Tired?


Until next time, this is Dr. Sabrina Stierwalt with Everyday Einstein's Quick and Dirty Tips for helping you make sense of science.

I want to give a huge thanks to all of you science fans for tuning in each week. There is a change coming to Everyday Einstein. Starting in May, new episodes will be released on Monday evenings. I hope this new schedule will give you more time to satisfy your scientific curiousity during the week, and maybe free up some weekend time for going outside!

As always, you can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I'm @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you'd like to see on a future episode, send me an email at everydayeinstein@quickanddirtytips.com.

Man Napping image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.