Sleep Science • Article

Tired? The Ultimate Guide to Napping

Angela Tague

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The power of naps is rooted in research. Learn how daytime slumber can boost your health and mitigate damaging lack-of-sleep side effects. Expert napping tips included! 

Some people fear that napping during the day will hinder a good night's sleep. But when done properly — at the right time and place, and just the perfect length — napping can energize you and improve your thinking and your mood. 

As everyone ponders ways to stay in tip-top shape to ward off viruses and other illnesses, it's good to know that quality sleep also makes your immune system work better, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

When you don't get enough sleep, you are at a higher risk for infections, produce fewer antibodies from vaccines and generate inflammatory cytokines, the cells that flip the switch on disease-nurturing inflammation in the body. 

Research shows that good sleep naturally boosts immunity and adequate amounts of sleep provide optimal resistance to infectious diseases, particularly when coupled with diet and exercise. 

Quality sleep (and the occasional nap) is critical to your wellbeing and fundamental to your health. It's the most basic of human needs, and yet most people are just beginning to understand its value. 

So, why doesn't everyone just embrace napping already? Self-care isn't selfish. If you feel tired during the day, it's best to listen to your body and give it what it needs. And that might simply be a nap. 



Certified sleep consultant Jason Piper, founder of Build Better Sleep, and Aarthi Ram, MD, a physician specializing in sleep medicine and neurology at Houston Methodist Hospital, weigh in on afternoon naps and their benefits. 



For sure! Naps can be used as a tool to supplement poor quality sleep at night and to recover from tough physical or mental work during the daytime, according to Piper. 

Ram adds, "Naps can provide many benefits, including improved productivity and performance, improved alertness, improved mood and decreased fatigue." 

Numerous studies have found that insufficient sleep can impact everything from weight gain to general brain health. A lack of adequate sleep over time has also been associated with a shortened lifespan. 

Ahhh, the power of naps. 



A little prep work and a shift in mindset are all it takes. 

"The best way to prepare for an effective nap is first be OK with taking a nap. It is not a sign of laziness. This helps to get rid of the guilt of taking a nap," Piper says. 

"Next, you want to plan for it just like you would for going to bed. Have a specific time of day you want to take it. Try to eliminate as much light as possible, be comfortable and have the room cooler. I like to listen to light music to block out random daytime noises that can disturb sleep." 

When it comes to comfort, where you snooze matters. Skip the recliner or couch and head straight for your bed if you work from home or leave the office for breaks. 



A nap is a short stint of sleep. It shouldn't mirror your night of rest. Ram says an ideal nap ranges in length from 10 to 30 minutes. 

"Once we start to sleep longer than this, our bodies enter the deeper stages of sleep, and waking from these deep stages of sleep can sometimes leave us feeling groggy," she adds. 



Our body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. The natural time of day that our body asks for a bit of rest is in the afternoon, around 1-2 p.m., the experts say. 

That's why we often feel an after-lunch slump. 



This is a tricky topic — the answer is a yes and no. Daytime naps don't truly help you catch up on lost sleep at night, but they do help mitigate sleep deficits, Piper explains. 

Bottom line: Naps do not provide the same high-quality sleep as nighttime rest. But, they are good for the body. They help squash those lack-of-sleep side effects, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which include: 

  • Decreased quality of life 

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness 

  • Impaired memory 

  • Increased likelihood of a driving accident 

  • Lack of alertness 

  • Medical issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, obesity, low sex drive and depression 

  • Physical body changes such as wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes 

  • Relationship stress 

"Adults aged 18 to 65 years old are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day. This includes overnight sleep and any naps. If you are shortchanging yourself at night and nap during the day, it counts towards your daily total," Ram says. 



Yes. As we mentioned earlier, sleep is critical for optimal immune system functioning. 

When it comes to naps versus a night of sleep, "The body does most of its immune system maintenance at night, but a nap when we are sick or really sleep-deprived helps to give the body energy and allows it to not be working so hard," Piper notes. "On the flip side though, if you are exhausted all of the time and sleeping a lot or taking many naps, it could be a sign of a medical issue that needs more attention." 

If this resonates with you, it's time for a chat with your family physician. 



Sometimes. It all depends on how you nap. Ram says if you nap for too long or too close to bedtime, your sleep drive diminishes, which makes it harder to fall asleep — and stay asleep — in the evening. 

So, how and when you nap truly does matter if you want to get good sleep — day or night. 

Napping isn't some antiquated practice, reserved for tiny tots or quaint Spanish villages. 

Not only is sleep essential for healthy cognitive functions, it also assists in balancing hormones for both physical health and emotional wellbeing. For decades, a solid body of research has shown that a healthy lifestyle depends on getting quality sleep. 

As poet Sir Philip Sidney wrote in Sonnet 39: 

"Come Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace, The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe, The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release, Th' indifferent judge between the high and low." 


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal well-being and performance. Because everyone's sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep.



Angela Tague is a health-focused writer and yogi in the Midwest. When she's not trying a gluten-free recipe or hiking nature trails with her dog, she's writing full-time for lifestyle brands including Tom's of Maine, a2 Milk® and Vapor Fresh. Chat with her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague. 


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