We love any tips and tricks that help us hack our sleep schedule and get more and better-quality rest, be it via weighted blankets, amazing travel pillows, or switching up the temperature of our rooms. But the sleep you get at night is just one aspect of your rest routine. What about naps? They feel like heaven and can perk you up in the middle of a long day or before a big night. But there's quite a bit of conflicting information out there about whether napping is good or bad for you and exactly what the perfect nap duration really is.
Is Napping Good For You?
First stop: is napping itself bad for you? "I always compare napping to snacking," said Rafael Pelayo, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center For Sleep Sciences and Medicine. "If you're somebody who didn't get enough food for whatever reason, then a snack is OK." On the other hand, if you're snacking so much that you can't eat dinner at night, it might not be the best choice.
Napping works the same way. If you didn't get enough sleep for some reason, or if your schedule and lifestyle are such that you're not going to get as long of a rest in the evening, then go ahead and catch that nap or even program it into your day, Dr. Pelayo said. But if you're regularly attempting to sleep at night and not able to, then napping might throw off your rhythm in a detrimental way.
"It's not that napping is good or bad," Dr. Pelayo told POPSUGAR. "It's the context within which the nap is done." He added the urge to nap is very much natural. "I think we're biologically set up to have the flexibility of catching a nap. Our body allows this." Napping is a luxury, one that we indulge in on vacations, weekends, and whenever we can, and there's nothing really wrong with it unless it's regularly disrupting your overall sleep cycle.
How Long Should You Nap For?
When it comes to how long your nap should really be, Dr. Pelayo had some specific advice. "The question is, how do you define a nap?" he said. People who take three- to four-hour "naps" aren't really napping; "that's more like a sleep period," he told POPSUGAR. In general, an actual nap should be under an hour. "Some people like them in the 20- to 40-minute range," Dr. Pelayo said.
If your nap goes much longer than 40 minutes, and especially if it's over an hour and a half, you may run into something called sleep inertia, which is that fogginess when you first wake up in the morning. It can be hard to shake off and an issue when you're napping in the middle of the day and have things you have to get up for.
Can you still take those longer naps? Yes, Dr. Pelayo said, as long as it's working with your lifestyle. "If you're living your life well and you're happy with things, then the pattern you're doing actually is going to be OK," he told POPSUGAR. But if the reason you nap is because you're not getting enough sleep at night, then you should start to think about whether you can change your schedule and shorten your naps.
What's the "best" sleep schedule? Whatever makes you feel the best, but Dr. Pelayo said that a long period of sleep in the evening, plus a chance to catch a nap in the afternoon, is a good choice. "That seems to be how we function the best."