The Power of the Nap

The Power of the Nap

What is something that Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Zappos, and Uber all have in common?

All of these companies have installed dedicated nap stations in their work environment.

After about 16 hours without sleep, majority of people will start to feel tired. To combat this, 1/3 of U.S. adults nap on any given day.

But where does a nap’s bad rap come from?

No studies have been able to conclude that naps themselves cause a low quality night’s sleep. Most health problems related to naps come from a lack of quality night time sleep, which some people use naps as a coping mechanism. So, which is the cause, and which is the effect? This has yet to be determined by any medical professionals.

But have people always napped? And what is the most optimal length for naps and at what time to take one?


Nap History


The research behind humans and their naps cannot 100% determine whether past humans took afternoon zzzz’s. Two significant studies stood out, one supporting the past history of naps and one counter argument.

In the counter argument, Dr. Siegel and colleagues tracked the sleeping patterns of hunter gatherer groups in Tanzania, Kalahari, and Bolivia and none of these groups took naps. He believes that napping was never a part of the ancient human physiology. But how accurate is it to assume that all previous human races didn’t take naps from this small pool of modern day native groups?

With the rise of technology, humans have adapted over time, introducing the nap into their daily lives. Just take the light bulb for example. Once this invention became commonplace in everyday work environments and households, people inevitably slept less. With ways to prolong “daylight”, people worked more and stayed up later in the night. Thus, naps were used to make up for lost sleep.

Unknown to most people, more than 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers meaning they sleep for short periods of time throughout the day (not Homo sapiens). A very small percentage of mammals are monophasic sleepers which have days split into parts of sleep and parts of awake. This is where humans fall, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, it isn’t clear if this has always been the case. The National Sleep foundation believes younger folks and the elderly have always took naps throughout history. Naps are nothing of new.

Look up any successful person in the last 200 years, and I bet a majority of them took naps. It’s part of the lifestyle that includes a brutal work ethic entailing early mornings and late nights, and somewhere in between……naps. What’s even more intriguing is the fact that the following historical figures took naps, had short nights worth of sleep, and yet lived long, successful lives:

  • Ronald Reagan (93 years old)
  • Winston Churchill (90 years old)
  • Thomas Edison (84 years old, especially when compared to the average longevity of humans during this time period)

proving that sleep in regard to longevity is multifaceted.


Nap Types


So apparently there’s three basic nap types (also from the National Sleep Foundation), which I had no idea existed. They are planned napping, emergency napping, and habitual napping:

  • Planned napping is when you take a nap before you actually get tired. For example, let’s say you had a rough night of studying and know you’ll be drowsier towards the end of the day. You decide to take a nap around lunch time to boost your energy levels. This is planned napping.
  • Emergency napping is when you’re suddenly exhausted and the only fix is a quick nap. A very common example of this is getting tired at the wheel of a car and pulling over to take a nap alongside the road.
  • Habitual napping is when you take a nap at the same time every day. I do this and love it. Depending on what my work schedule is looking like, I typically take a 30 minute nap at the same time Monday thru Friday.

I find that if you nap regularly, you get the most out of them, especially if you’re a night owl like myself. Frequent habitual nappers tend to take lighter stages of sleep while napping and infrequent nappers tend to fall into deep sleeps, which is why they wake up feeling terrible and have trouble falling asleep at nighttime.


Perfect Your Nap Timing


I’m sure you’ve noticed that quick 20-30 minute naps and longer 2-3 hour naps make you feel differently afterwards, and even later on in the day. There’s an exact science to how long you should sleep.

According to “The Science of Napping: Ideal Nap Lengths and the Perfect Time”:

  • Power naps that range from 10-20 minutes provide a jolt of alertness, vigor, and/or decreased fatigue.
  • Grogginess naps around the 30 minute mark will have some effects of sleep inertia upon waking up. Your body when asleep was in a state of rest and parts of your brain aren’t fully awake yet.
  • The short term nap approaches the one hour mark. At this time, your sleep starts to borderline the deep sleep cycles, which help you remember facts, places you’ve been, and names or faces. This time frame will also have minor instances of grogginess from sleep inertia.
  • And finally, anything over 90 minutes long can be classified as a REM nap, REM meaning rapid eye movement. This is when you reach a full sleep cycle and dreams occur. In this stage, sleep inertia is almost nonexistence and waking up is a walk in the park. It’s shown that naps like these are more ideal on the weekends and preferably taken between 1-4 P.M. to avoid disturbing your night time sleep schedule.


Lastly, I’d like to go over three key points that I find beneficial when napping:

1.) Keep your naps in the shorter range, 20-40 minutes.

2.) Find a dark, quiet, and low temperature place to nap.

3.) Habitually plan your naps; you’ll fall asleep faster and wake up quicker.


Hope you all enjoyed this week’s blog post! If you’ve missed last week’s post on a beginner’s investment guide into stocks and bonds, click here! As always, don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe!


“Success is the ability to go from one nap to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”


Book of the Month:     “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley




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