The right time to nap is at work

Story highlights

  • Experts think of 2 to 4 p.m. is the prime nap time window.
  • With 20 minutes or less, you're taking a garden-variety power nap, which can improve your short-term alertness and performance

Although being an adult is generally cooler than being a toddler, it falls short in at least one major way: Why is nap time no longer a thing? "If you're getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night, naps can be part of a healthy sleep schedule," says Rebecca Robbins, PhD, a fellow at the NYU School of Medicine and co-author of Sleep for Success! Plus, it's not like anyone's arguing: The people want to nap. According to research commissioned by Casper, a buzzy mattress delivery startup, 66 percent of over 10,000 people surveyed would take a quick snooze more frequently if their offices had designated napping areas. (Maybe something like this Tranquility Pod?)

But it's not like everyone has been on the snooze train. "At one time we thought naps were bad for sleep and bad for us," says Natalie Dautovich, PhD, National Sleep Foundation's Environmental Scholar and assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. "I think we're starting to understand [napping is] a much more complex phenomenon." Even better, experts are beginning to think a midday nap could be the key to triumphing over the dreaded afternoon energy crash.

The ideal amount of nap time

    When you sleep for 20 minutes or less, you're taking a garden-variety power nap, which can improve your short-term alertness and performance, says Dr. Dautovich. And that's the key to a quality power nap: Keep it under 20 minutes and you'll emerge refreshed. But any longer and your body enters a deeper slumber that's harder to wake up from, like your rapid eye movement, or REM, cycle.
    "Your REM cycle is strongly connected to cognitive functions like creativity, memory and coming up with solutions to problems," says Dr. Robbins. "We believe that since [REM sleep is] so restorative, disrupting that cycle [by waking up in the midst of it] can throw you off." There's also the chance that you could wake up in a deep stage of sleep that experts call non-REM sleep stage 3. "It's more difficult to awaken from [this stage] of sleep than [others]," says Dr. Dautovich. "Whenever you wake up from a deeper stage of sleep, you can experience sleep inertia, which is a feeling o