The Nap

The What, Why, and Where

We have been taught that 8 hours is the magic number for sleep.  We try to get as close to that magic number as humanly possible and still, maintain some semblance of social life.  It’s hard and most of the time the closest we come is somewhere between 6 and 7 hours of sleep, not quality sleep, but at least it’s sleep.  While spurts of shortened sleep are not as damaging as living a lifestyle where 6 hours is the norm, it is still very unnerving to feel like your head is in the clouds on days where you picked an activity over getting good sleep.  In comes our hero of the day…The Nap.

We live in a culture where napping is considered a lazy thing to do.  Where you are judged harshly as a sluggard if you elect to take a nap.  Rejoice now! Research is working hard to change our views.  Napping is a tool to be used to INCREASE your productivity!  

Don’t go crazy patting yourself on the back just yet, you sluggard.  You have to know the facts behind the napping studies, and the use of the nap.  You may still be doing it wrong.  

What is a nap?

A nap is defined as “a short sleep, especially during the day.” That’s what it is supposed to be – a short sleep.  

Let’s take a minute to get technical here.  First, let’s add a term known as “Sleep Inertia.”  Sleep Inertia is defined as “Sleep Inertia often appears as the feeling of incomplete awakening and grogginess that reduces your ability to perform even simple tasks.” In layman’s terms, it is grogginess.  It’s caused by your body’s sleep need and the want for your body to shut down longer than you want it to.  It can affect your awake time for quite a while after you’ve gotten up from sleep.

Ok, next let’s define short sleep.  Short sleep is 10 to 20 minutes of sleep.  Yes, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep.  5-minute napping is not enough to help your productivity, go beyond 20 minutes in your nap and your body begins to see sleep inertia, which as we now know can bring a level of grogginess that can absolutely ruin your productivity. So with that said I will put the whole statement together for clarity; Napping is only beneficial if done within a time-limited to between 10 and 20 minutes, after that your productivity and mental processes slow and your grogginess can affect all performance. 

What are the benefits of a nap?

Let’s get to the studies shall we:

  • University of California-Berkeley concluded an afternoon nap expands the brains capacity to learn. Nappers easily outperformed non-nappers in the ability to retain information.
  • Current Biology published an article authored by Bryce A. Mander found that nappers were twice as likely to solve a complex problem than people who spent their time on other activities.
  • Napping boosts short-term memory as well as associative memory that allows functions such as placing a name to an individual face. – Nicole Lovato, Progress in Brain Research 
  • It is particularly beneficial to performance on tasks such as addition, logical reasoning, reaction time, and symbol recognition. – Catherine E. Milner & Kimberly A. Cote, Journal of Sleep Research.

The research goes on and on for several PAGES, but I think you get the gist; Napping helps you perform better at activities that require your brain to be at optimal performance.  Napping enables you to think clearer and function better.

When do I nap?

When is the best time for you to nap?  That is a question based on your personal sleep cycle and chronotype.  Chronotype is your sleep pattern, are you an early bird? A middle lark? Or a night owl? Your chronotype determines your nap time needs.  There are several daily logs available online that can help you determine your “when.”  The one I found best and most useful was from the author of the book “When”, Daniel H. Pink.  His daily time log is excellent and very easy to use, I recommend searching it out.  

Where can I nap?

When you have determined your best rest time, your next action is to find a place to nap. This in most cases with be the hardest part of taking on the napping mentality.  If a breakroom is available, maybe you could try there?  How about right at your desk? The challenge is to find a place where you are safe, can close your eyes, and best of all maybe find darkness.  Luckily a few companies have found the nap culture and have begun to allow for napping, and have even provided places for employees to take naps. 

How do I nap during work hours?

Your best bet is to use headphones or some kind of noise canceling device and use that to block out the distractions.  Your break time is a great time to utilize for a nap session.  Finding a location is the biggest challenge, but once you’ve managed that part the rest is a piece of cake.

I hope you find this blog article handy and helpful.  I hope you find your way to effective napping.  I know it will make a difference in your personal life and your work life.  Remember one thing though, napping does not make up for long terms of lost sleep.  Please don’t make that mistake.  Only through sleep can your brain rejuvenate itself.  One other thing, When you Sleep Well, you Live Well. 

Please leave any comments below, we’d love to hear from you. Any comments on practices you’ve used to help you nap would be greatly appreciated by us and by other readers looking for help on this topic.


12 Facts About Sleep Inertia – Valley Sleep Center;

When by Daniel H. Pink

Sleep, The 8 Hour Myth by Nick Littlehales

About the author:

Javier is the owner of Sleep Well, professionally trained sleep stores, specializing in specific mattresses for specific needs. He lives to give. He is an active member of his community and church. His hard work and efforts pay off for him when he can help others, and give to efforts for the betterment of others.
His spare time is spent with his beautiful wife, Gretchen. They are craft beer hobbyists who enjoy making their own beers, visiting small breweries, and making new friends. Their lives revolve around church, family, exercising, four great dogs, and keeping up with their home in Alamogordo NM.