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The Secret to the Best Nap

Discussion in 'Physiology' started by Hala, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. Hala

    Hala Golden Member Verified Doctor

    Oct 17, 2013
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    We all have that one friend who could be a professional napper. They disappear under the covers for anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours and come out looking like they just slept a luxurious twelve hours. We feel inspired, try to squeeze in a nap, and 95% of the time, end up waking up either like this:

    Tumblr | Rachel Chow

    or like this:

    Tumblr | What Should the Doc Call Me

    So how did they do it? And why can’t we?

    To answer these questions, I decided to look up a few factors that affect napping. At first, I thought it could be mostly chalked up to the fact that my nap-happy friends were simply in the habit of napping. This could be partly true but there’s a lot of other facets to nap-success besides practice.

    When should I nap?

    For most, in order to align with your circadian rhythm, the best nap time is the early afternoon between 1 and 3pm*. Check out this handy dandy ‘nap wheel’ designed to find you the best time to nap based on when you woke up.

    Dr. Sara Mednick

    *We should note that this time applies for a regular nap, and not a once or twice a week phenomenon which no matter the time, could also disrupt your natural rhythm.

    And for how long?

    Funders and Founders

    Here’s a nice concise infographic from the Wall Street Journal explaining the best length for a nap, based on what you want out from it.


    This one is more subjective; but experts recommend sleeping wherever works, though slightly upright to avoid a deep sleep.

    Can napping be a bad idea sometimes?

    Definitely. For conditions like sleep apnea or insomnia, napping actually isn’t recommended but for most anyone else, it’s recommended to give it a shot if you’re feeling poorly rested. Some people unfortunately just aren’t good nappers says sleep expert and clinical psychologist, Dr. Janet Kennedy. So if you’re one of those people where none of the above recommendations seem to help, it’s best to try to increase the amount of shut-eye you can get at night and avoid the nap altogether.

    And for good measure… some fun sleep facts! (Note the one on the cognitive effects of an all-nighter, pre-meds!!)


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