The ultimate power-nap guide

Written by: Caray Viegas



Time to read 2 min

Napping has been shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive performance, and reduce fatigue. It's no wonder companies like Google have begun encouraging employees to tap into the benefits of a mid-day power-nap. And for some, even gone so far as to create nap spaces for their employees.

But if you've ever woken up from a nap feeling worse than beforehand, you'll know it's not that simple. Approaching napping in the wrong way can leave you worse off.

In this guide, we'll offer research-backed tips to get the most out of a nap without waking up groggy.

What is a ‘power’ nap?

Power-naps simply refer to short naps, where you awake before falling into deep sleep. With a power-nap, you can receive the benefits of restorative sleep, while avoiding the disorienting state that can follow a long sleep. 

Power-naps have been found to boost workplace performance and improve cognitive functions like memory. To prevent mistakes and fatigue, even the US army has begun to introduce time for napping during the afternoon. 

The Sleep Foundation has also claimed that power-naps can improve overall health by reducing your risk of cardiovascular problems, relieving stress & supporting the immune system, & even lower the risk of aneurysm rupture.

The best time to power-nap:

Our circadian rhythms regulate our sleep/wake cycle, determining when we feel tired and awake. The biggest drive for sleep is at night, but the second biggest is in the early afternoon (around 2 pm). This is because blood travels to the stomach to assist with digestion after lunch and away from our brains.

Experts recommend that adults take power-naps eight or more hours before bedtime. This would be before 3pm for most people. In saying that, naps can also be beneficial to restore alertness at any time you feel tired but need to stay awake.

"Experts recommend that adults take power-naps eight or more hours before bedtime."

How Long is the ideal ‘power-nap’?

Experts recommend keeping your power-naps under 30mins and recommend the ideal nap is around 20 minutes.

According to CDC “A brief nap can increase alertness for a couple of hours after the nap, with less grogginess, and does not disrupt subsequent sleep at night because it does not reduce the homeostatic build-up of pressure for sleep."

a person is napping

But my napping patterns work for me!

Even though your napping habits may not match up with expert advice, it does not mean that your napping routine is incorrect. If you are able to get adequate rest and have enough energy for your daily tasks without needing a power-nap, then you may not need to alter your nap schedule.

However, if you find that your current napping habits are affecting your night-time sleep and your productivity, you may want to consider changing the timing of when you take a power-nap or its length.

If you need a nap, you might be sleep-deprived

If you are reading this guide though, the chances are that you feel exhausted during the day and your current napping and sleeping habits are not helping by much. If this is the case, you might be one of the 43% of people and 87% of office workers who suffer from circadian disruption.

Circadian disruption refers to your internal body clock being out of sync with earth’s day night cycle. This can happen when you don’t get enough light exposure during the day In the short term, this can mean you feel tired during the day and unable to sleep at night. In the long term though, it can lead to a whole host of health complications.  Learn more about your body clock here.