How Long Should a Nap Last?

Get the hows and whys of nap length from James Maas, Ph.D., psychology professor at Cornell University. From his best-selling book, “Power Sleep.”

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Taking Naps

You might want to take a mid-afternoon nap but can’t seem to fall asleep. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Maybe you’re not overly sleep-deprived in the first place; or you might be too stressed or stimulated to nod off. Just the act of relaxing meditating or lying down with your eyes closed will be beneficial in restoring energy.

Prophylactic Napping
Napping makes it possible to deposit needed assets in your sleep bank account. If you know you’ll be going to bed late on a given night because of travel or evening social events, take a preparatory nap that day. These prophylactic naps can be two to three hours in duration and are effective in providing additional hours of alertness that night. You’ll feel a bit groggy about 30 minutes following a long nap. That’s called “sleep inertia,” but it will soon give way to feelings of alertness.

Researchers have demonstrated that when people napped in preparation for an all-nighter, their performance the next day was superior to that of those who did not take the prophylactic nap. In fact, they were 30 percent more alert and optimistic than people who did not nap. When you take a long nap, remember that your nocturnal sleep will be reduced by the amount of shut-eye that you got that day.

Napping for fifteen minutes every four hours, for a total of one and half hours sleep per day, first suggested by Leonardo da Vinci, is often used by solo sailors on long voyages and for those performing long hours under emergency circumstances (fire and earthquake rescue, for example).As a stopgap measure it seems to work for short periods of time.

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