Power naps are ideal, but experts say don’t sleep more than 90 minutes — here’s why

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There’s been conflicting research and expert advice for years now, but when it comes down to napping, some say there is an ideal length of time you should aim for.

Dr. Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert and author of How to Sleep Well, tells Global News while naps don’t necessarily make up for inadequate or poor-quality sleep overnight, a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes — or a power nap — can help.

“[It] can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents,” he says. “The increase in alertness following a nap may persist for a few hours.”

Napping can also have psychological benefits, he adds.

“A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a welcome break in a stressful day.”

READ MORE: Sleeping in on weekends can help you live longer — study

Are there time limits?

Previous studies have shown a 26-minute NASA nap in-flight enhanced performance by 34 per cent, while a 60-minute nap could increase alertness for up to 10 hours, the Guardian reports.

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Jennifer Ackerman, author of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, told the site you shouldn’t, however, nap for more than 45 minutes.

READ MORE: Should you nap at work? A sleep specialist says yes

Stanley adds if the nap is too long, you can suffer from sleep inertia.

“Sleep inertia is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep and can last for approximately 15 minutes to two hours,” he continues. “Also, if you nap too long or too late in the day this may affect your nighttime sleep.”

Sleep expert Alanna McGinn adds you want to avoid waking up within a 60-minute range.

“That is when you are in the deepest phase of sleep in your cycle,” she tells Global News. “If you have difficulty falling asleep at night or sleeping through the night then you want to avoid daytime sleep as it will rob you of the restorative sleep you need at night.”

A full sleep cycle

McGinn says when it comes to figuring out how much nap time you need, it also is worth understanding sleep cycles.

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“A full sleep cycle is typically around 90 minutes and throughout that time we are cycling through light and deep sleep phases,” she explains.

“You want to avoid napping past 30 minutes as that’s where you begin to enter a deep phase of sleep. You’ll likely feel like you have a ‘sleep hangover’ if you wake up past this point so limit your nap to 15 to 20 minutes.”

If 15 to 20 minutes isn’t enough, aim for 90 minutes so that you are waking as your body is entering into a phase of lighter sleep, she adds.

“This time frame is perfect for shift workers who may be chronically sleep deprived and really need the daytime sleep. Don’t forget to set your alarm with an extra five minutes for falling asleep.”

Making the most of your naps

McGinn adds 10- to 20-minute naps can boost energy and alertness, without the feeling of sleep inertia, while a 90-minute nap boosts memory and creativity, which is ideal if you are studying for a test.

“Short naps generally don’t affect nighttime sleep quality for most people,” she continues. “However, if you experience chronic insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. Long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep, [but] overall, napping can benefit most people, even if you get a full night of sleep.”
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Echoing similar thoughts, Stanley adds if you need to get eight hours of sleep and you get two of them in the day, you are likely not going to need more than six hours of sleep during the evening.

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“Therefore, if you nap during the day and get, what is to you, an acceptable amount of sleep during the night and feel pretty OK during the day then don’t worry about having your nap,” he continues.

And to really see if napping works for you, test it.

“However, if your nocturnal sleep is particularly poor then it may be worth trying to do without your nap for a couple of weeks and see if your sleep improves. If so, carry on, if not, go back to napping.”

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