If you’re lacking sleep or trying to find a moment to relax, you might think about having a power nap.
Whilst regular napping could have mental and physical benefits, sleeping for too long or at the wrong time can also have its downsides.
That’s why we’ve put together an ultimate guide to napping, helping you to make the most out of your nap time.
What are the benefits of napping?
Living a busy lifestyle can make you feel tired and in need of some rejuvenation, leaving you longing to have a nap.
Whether that’s a power nap before a night shift or an afternoon nap before a big night out, napping can provide a whole host of benefits.
So much so, that many cultures incorporate naps into their everyday routine to ensure productivity and boost overall health.
Spanish culture has a siesta - a siesta is a Spanish word meaning nap or rest break, particularly after lunch.1
A siesta is put in place to improve physical and mental performance and ensure alertness.
Similar afternoon naps are common in the Mediterranean and many other Latin American countries to avoid the afternoon heat.
The benefits of napping can include reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved mood, and better memory.2 Napping may also reduce the impact of insufficient sleep.
Some studies into napping have also found that physical performance could be improved by taking a nap. Due to having an afternoon nap, athletes may experience improved endurance, reaction times, and cognitive performance.3
What are the disadvantages of napping?
So, whilst taking a nap can help to fight the feeling of fatigue, there are also times when taking a long nap can have a negative outcome.
Napping for long periods of time, or too often might hinder your ability to achieve a restful night’s sleep and disrupt your overall sleep pattern.4
It is important to regulate your nap time and make sure you are sleeping for the ideal nap length (more on this later!) to avoid feelings of grogginess and ensure you wake up feeling refreshed.
However, it is important to note that an unexpected, persistent feeling of fatigue could actually indicate an underlying health condition, so it’s best to consult a doctor if you feel like this.
Why do people need naps?
One of the most common reasons why people need to nap is to help cope with sleep debt, also known as sleep deficit. This is the difference between how much sleep your body needs compared to how much sleep you actually get.
Sleep debt can have an impact on your health as getting enough rest for your body is important for overall health.
Sleep debt can lead to a lack of focus, a weakened immune system, and feelings of fatigue.5
Understand more of the effects of sleep deprivation here.
Taking naps can help you feel more refreshed if you have under slept, however, you shouldn’t rely on napping as a sustainable form of aiding sleep deprivation.
What is the best nap length?
After weighing up the benefits of napping, you might ask yourself “what is the best length of time for a nap”?
It may surprise you, but the perfect length for optimal nap time is about 20 - 30 minutes.
Research shows that waking up around the recommended nap time of 30 minutes allows you to feel rested without that groggy feeling.6
Taking a 2 - 3 hour nap, for example, can be too long for the body and potentially leave you feeling confused and agitated, as you are in the deeper stages of the sleep cycle.
A shorter nap allows your mind and body to rest without falling into a slow wave sleep, the deepest stage of the sleep cycle.
When should I consider having a nap?
The best power nap time is between 1pm - 3 pm.7 An afternoon sleep at this time avoids interference with your regular night-time sleeping.
It’s also worth noting that napping at the wrong time can also cause confusion to your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock).
For example, if you start a winter nap at 3pm until 5pm, chances are it’ll then be dark outside – which could make it even harder to wake up from and settle back into the day.
Can napping cause weight gain?
In short, no - napping doesn’t cause weight gain, if it’s in conjunction with a healthy balanced lifestyle.
However, having an afternoon sleep could cause potential weight gain unless energy consumed and burnt is well balanced.8
If you aren’t getting an adequate amount of sleep, you might feel run down and drained, which could therefore leave you feeling more hungry than normal and in need of an energy boost.
This can result in weight gain from overeating due to feeling more run down.
It is important to consider other factors such as genetics, eating a healthy diet, and exercise that all contribute to weight gain.
Can I nap after eating?
After eating a big meal, you might feel more lethargic than normal and in need of a lie-down,
However, to aid digestion, you should wait a while before taking an afternoon nap. Sleeping just after a meal causes acidity and disturbs the process of digestion, thus leading to weight gain.
To ensure your food is properly digested, it is recommended to maintain a gap of 1 - 2 hours after a meal and before going to bed.
Top napping tips
- Nap between 1pm - 3pm to avoid interference with your night-time sleeping
- Nap for 20 - 30 minutes to ensure you don’t fall into the deeper stages of the sleep cycle
- Sleep in a room that is quiet, dark and uninterrupted to help you drift off easier
- Use an alarm to signal the end of your power nap, to avoid oversleeping
Now you’re clued up on the best napping tips, find out more about optimal sleeping from our guides, including how to fight fatigue and what the best vitamins are for sleep and relaxation.
Overall, napping during the day has a powerful recuperative effect on the body, as long as it is an ideal nap length. The benefits of nap time, when they are the correct length, can be effective for your mental and physical well-being.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 13 January 2023