Napping is a very controversial subject with parties supporting both ends of the spectrum. Some people swear by naps while others believe it disrupts their sleeping cycle. Companies like Google and Apple even supply sleep pods for employees to catch some zzzzzzzzz's, so what's the answer?
Well, it depends....
We don't really know. The National Sleep Foundation states "humans are part of the minority of monophasic sleepers, meaning that our days are divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefullness. It is not clear that this is the natural sleep patterns for humans. Young children and elderly persons nap, for example, and napping is a very important aspect of many cultures". So, it seems like we're still trying to figure it all out but we do know that the most prevalent sleep disorder in the United States is insufficient sleep and it's actually getting worse! In 2001 that average adult got 7 hours of sleep on a work night but in 2008 the average dropped to 6.6 hours each night. Sleep has been proven to support immune function, improve cognition and increase alertness but will a mid day nap support these processes too?
New research also reveals that we all have chronotypes which are sleep habits that classify us as early birds which typically go to bed earlier and wake up earlier (1/3rd of the population), the night owls which tend to go to bed later and wake up about an hour after the early birds, and the middle group which makes up about 50% of the people and are right in between the extremes.
The real world. So, let's say you're feeling over worked, sleep deprived, and there's still an insane amount of work to finish before the end of the day. Should you nap; hoping to feel refreshed and increase your productivity or will that precious 45 minutes take more time out of your day and prevent you from falling asleep at night?
There's an art to it. The 20 minute power nap is a quick way to "reboot" while 30 minute nap might just increase the drowsiness feeling. A nap just a little longer, between 40-60 minutes could help increase memory. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. The 90 minute nap will take you through the entire sleep cycle giving you the fuel to push through the day but it might also prevent you from falling asleep at night.
Listen to your body. In the end, do what feels right for you. Experiment with napping times and create the perfect schedule for you. I'm a huge fan of the afternoon nap, to me, it's like a treat halfway through the day. Most days I don't have the opportunity but when I can, it makes a huge difference in my productivity and mood for the rest of the day.