The Power Nap Debate



Ever since I came to college, napping has become an essential part of my day. It's really difficult for me to function on small amounts of sleep, so napping gets me through a lot of the days. The other day, I had a friend tell me that her psychology professor taught them that the ideal nap is 20-30 minutes long. This sounded ridiculous to me. I never take a nap shorter than an hour. What's the point in a 20 minute nap? How do you set an alarm for that when you don't know at what point you're going to fall asleep? After a 2-3 hour nap, I feel refreshed and ready to go about the rest of my day. Some people say that long naps make them more tired, but I don't feel this way. I decided to look into this issue a little further.

According to an article on, "Power napping takes place when you sleep in short bursts, allowing your body to enter just the first two stages of sleep. These first two stages of sleep typically take only 20 to 30 minutes, according to "Beauty Sleep" by Dr. Michael Breus." This article also states that both power naps and deep sleep have benefits and increase our stamina, but only deep sleep will produce extensive results. 

Another article by Elizabeth Scott states that "20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning". I thought this was interesting because so often we press the snooze button numerous times because we are convinced that those extra five minutes really do make a difference. I still think they do, but the studies discussed in this article suggest otherwise. Maybe it's psychological that those extra few minutes of sleep can improve how we feel for the rest of the day because we're so against waking up. This article also writes that "Many experts advise to keep the nap between 15 and 30 minutes, as sleeping longer gets you into deeper stages of sleep, from which it's more difficult to awaken. Also, longer naps can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night, especially if your sleep deficit is relatively small." These are definitely important points to consider when deciding how long to snooze. But still, despite these experts' claim that longer naps are harder to wake up from, I feel better after a long nap. The point brought up here that I think is most important to take away is that long naps make sleeping at night harder. I've definitely experienced this. But when we are busy and sleep-deprived, sometimes a long nap is the only option.

An article by Jennifer Soong on Web MD lays out the different lengths of naps and what they do for us: "What happens if you nap for more than 20 minutes? Research shows longer naps help boost memory and enhance creativity. Slow-wave sleep -- napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes -- is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions. Getting rapid eye movement or REM sleep, usually 60 to 90 minutes of napping, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems." This is more the view that I tend to agree with. I always take naps in the 60 to 90 minute range (if not longer) and it helps to know that this helps with solving creative problems - this could be beneficial to studying or writing papers.

Even after reading all these articles, I still stand by my argument that short naps are a little pointless and long naps are the way to go. How does everyone else nap? Do you think the proponents of short naps are right in that the cons outweigh the pros? Can we base our decisions on things like sleep on how we feel, or should we leave it up to the experts?


After reading all of those scientific observations of which nap style is the best, I think it depends on the person. You said that your preferred nap was between 60-90 minutes each day and you feel great after them. For me, I wake up every day tired and I have no reason why. I think it could be due to me going to bed at no later than 2 AM each night and waking up at 11 each day, which is 9 hours. Even though 8 hours is the ideal duration of sleep for a college student each night, that apparently does not work for me. I try not to nap because I feel like it will affect my sleep at night as well. But, to answer your question, I think the longer the nap one takes, the more tired the person is (at least in my case). I always debate whether to nap or not every day, but most of the time just end up fighting off the urge because I do not want to ruin my actual nighttime sleep. Even though long naps feel great, after them I always feel more tired as a result.

I tend to agree with Michael in that each person varies. Personally, I can take a 15 minute nap and feel like I just got a full night's sleep. I often feel very refreshed and much more alert than I did before I fell asleep. The one question I have regarding all of this is, does it matter where exactly you sleep? For instance, occasionally I will nap for a couple hours in my bed and when I wake up it feels like it's 6am. Where as if I nap on the couch for that long, I don't feel nearly as tired when I wake up. This may be due to the fact that your body is "trained" to know when and where it is sleeping for an extended period of time. So is it better to nap in bed, or elsewhere?

I really think that the amount of time you nap depends on the person as well. But, i also feel that the longer you nap during the day the more tired you will be after you wake up. We all know that waking up in the morning is absolutely awful, but I think that waking up after a nap in the afternoon is just as bad because all I want to do is sleep after just waking up. I have now started to just take quick naps like these studies have said to do and i feel a lot more refreshed because i was not able to make it into a complete deep sleep. I got onto and found some interesting facts about napping for adults. There are obvious benefits to napping during the day which include relaxation, reduced fatigue, improved mood, and even improved performance. Although there are good benefits to napping there are also some downsides for adults that nap. Some of these downsides include sleep inertia (feeling groggy after waking up) and night time sleeping issues. So this site gives good advice for those who want to sleep..."keep naps to 10-30 minutes long, take naps in the afternoon, and keep a peaceful sleeping environment". Once again, i feel as though napping should be kept to short amounts of time, but that is obviously just a personal belief. We are all different when it comes to sleeping patterns and the amount of sleep required.

This is a very interesting topic and extremely relevant to us sleep-valuing college students. I took AP Psychology last year at my high school and I couldn't help but be reminded of the stages of sleep we studied in that class, while reading this post. There are 4 stages of sleep, the first two are basically a "falling into sleep" stages where the body is relaxed and the muscles and mind are essentially rejuvenating. Stages 3 and 4 are "deep sleep" stages. Your body goes through the stages from 1-5 for about 90 minutes before entering REM sleep which includes, "heightened brain activity, but paralysis occurs simultaneously in the major voluntary muscle groups. REM is a mixture of encephalic (brain) states of excitement and muscular immobility. For this reason, it is sometimes called paradoxical sleep." My point in bringing all this up is that a 20 minutes nap only ventures into the first 2 stages of sleep. While these 2 stages are helpful in resting your body it seems to me insufficient and almost like you're teasing your body into sleeping rather than allowing it to continue to sleep. After 20 minutes naps I feel as though I've tricked my body into a sleeping-mind set but failed to allow myself to actually sleep. Perhaps, if we sleep for only 20 minute intervals we've actually made ourselves more tired? Think about it this way, if you charge your IPhone all the way to 100% it takes a while for it to die, but if you charge it to only, say, 20% the percentage per time that it takes to die increases. Put it this way, the time it takes the 100 to fall to 80 is much longer than the time it takes for the 20 to fall to 0. Maybe we should focus on "fully charging" ourselves with a substantial night sleep, meaning going to be at a decent time and awaking at a decent time, rather than "tricking" ourselves with short naps.

Naps vary for me. There are some days where I crash for 45 minutes in my room and bed and feel refreshed, and other days when I take 15 minute long cat naps in the HUB, and feel equally as refreshed. I don't know if where you nap has any impact on how refreshed you feel after it.

I guess I took a nap the other night while Skyping. I was talking to somebody one moment, then I woke up to discover it was 20 minutes later and the person hung up on me. Why does sleep like that make you lose track of time? More importantly, why did I wake up as if there was a fire somewhere, feeling very alarmed? Is there a reason for that?

I used to think short naps were pointless until I actually began examining how I felt after them. I usually take long naps that last 3-4 hours. I think I take long naps because I am severely sleep-deprived. However, when I take these long naps all I ever want to do is sleep more. Here at school, I have 2 hour breaks between my classes. During that time, I usually go to the hub, grab a bite to eat and sit down with friends for a little while. After that I go upstairs, pick a couch next to the window and go to sleep. I set an alarm to wake me. After taking a 30 minute nap I feel a lot more refreshed and ready to go.
Have you ever been in a class in high school that you slept through? Didn’t you feel rejuvenated after you woke up?
I also agree that the time of day has a lot to do with how much a nap impacts you. In the morning, 30 extra minutes feel like five. When it is time to wake up for class in the morning, 30 extra minutes is never enough. In between classes however, a 30 minute nap is all the energy I need !

Brooke, I think you make a good point that it's all personal preference. If a 20 minute nap works for somebody, then good for them! I wish I could take short naps like that. Katherine, I'm glad you knew more about these stages of sleep than I did. So when you take a short nap, would you say you are you not fully asleep? I never really thought of it like that. I agree with what you said about it seeming insufficient and like teasing your body. It seems pointless. I'm glad someone agrees that these 20 minute naps logically seem to have little to no purpose, does anybody want to argue a case for short naps?

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