We talk about a lot of things tangential to swimming around here, including starting strength, proper nutrition, and of course, healthy sleep habits. I am fully pro-napping over here, as is Coach Rippetoe, and thankfully there is a robust body of research to bolster our position.
The benefits of napping.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of napping. The research is clear, and there is a lot of it.
- A quick midday nap can give you better reaction time, a higher emotional tolerance, increased alertness, and improved memory.
- A 2010 study done by UC Berkeley shows that napping can clear the brain’s short-term memory storage and make room for new information, boosting your cognitive performance post-nap.
- And finally, a new study published in 2018 shows that napping can sort through our subconscious clutter, improving our decision making processes post snooze.
The perfect length.
There is an art to the length of a nap so pay attention.
- A 10-20 minute nap leaves you feeling refreshed. (Also known as the famous power nap).
- A 45-60 minute nape means you wake up mid-sleep cycle, creating the dreaded nap hangover, and should be avoided at all costs.
- 90 minutes is ideal if you are lucky enough to have a schedule that allows you that luxury. An hour and a half carries you through one full sleep cycle from lightest to deepest back to lightest and should allow you to wake up feeling alert. Studies also show napping for this length of time can improve memory and creativity. Anything longer than an hour and a half to two hours creates the risk of disrupting your nighttime sleep patterns and throwing off your natural circadian rhythms.
The ideal nap time.
It turns out there is, in fact, a perfect napping window. A large body of research shows that 2-3 in the afternoon is prime nap time. This specific window is tied to your circadian rhythms, early enough that you don’t interfere with your evening sleep habits, and right in the middle of the post-lunch haze. And finally, keep your sleep environment the same as if you were going to bed, dark, quiet, and cool.
Happy napping, friends!