Written By: Nitya Goel
Like many other teens, I repeatedly find myself not getting enough sleep. Staying up into long hours of the night leaves me feeling groggy the next day. Often, I will take a nap to catch up on the sleep I lost the night before. However, I frequently find myself waking up more drowsy than I was when I lay down. This made me wonder: Is there an optimal time period for a nap? If so, what is the science behind it?
The Ideal Length
The human body rests in cycles that usually last 90-110 minutes. The process includes three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and two cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In the first two stages, the body is in a lighter, more shallow trance. Research suggests that adults’ ideal length should be around 15-30 minutes to remain within those stages when napping. This allows the body to rest while avoiding REM sleep. When a nap lasts for longer than that, the body starts preparing itself for deep sleep. This is why we wake up with sleep inertia, which gives the feeling of being irritated and tired.
Something important to take into account is the differences between adults and teenagers. Teenagers will find themselves prone to sleep deprivation and loss due to various factors like hormones, school, and stress. These can have a significant impact on the body’s ability to sleep normally. Some research suggests that longer naps (30-60 minutes) would be more beneficial for teens and those who do not sleep enough at night.
Unfortunately, sleep is not a simple thing. Everyone’s body is different and can operate on unique cycles. This is why trial and error is essential when deciding the ideal nap.
What Time of Day?
The best time of day for a nap depends a lot on your current sleep/wake schedule. Napping too soon after waking up or too close to bedtime can affect your normal sleep cycle instead of helping you catch up on sleep. For most people, 2:00-3:00 pm is ideal. This way, you can counteract tiredness in the middle of the day while not disturbing your sleep at night.
Are Naps Good for You?
It is often a subject of debate as to whether or not naps are good for you. Experts suggest that naps can help boost cognitive brain function. Others say that it can improve your mood, reduce fatigue, and enhance short term memory. However, many scientists caution against naps longer than an hour, as they may have the opposite effect.
All this research has given me a better idea of what kind of nap is best for someone my age. I have learned to be a bit more cautious when sleeping for long hours after school. In my own experience, I noticed that I find it difficult to sleep when I have napped for longer than an hour during the day. Although it may take some effort, I am confident I can apply this knowledge to my life. I look forward to seeing if this information positively impacts the way I sleep.