How to take a perfect nap and avoid the kind that will leave you groggy

Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Feel tired, can’t focus and coffee doesn’t work anymore? Try taking a nap.

We’ve all been there. Whether you work at an office, freelance, or are a stay-at-home parent you must have gone through it. Your eyelids start feeling like two weighed-down curtains and you physically start craving just a moment of shut-eye.

Not all of us are able to indulge, but for those who do – remember – all naps were not created equal. Some will offer a much needed pick-up but others may leave you dazed and confused. Here are the 4 different kinds and what you can expect from each.

  1. A power nap

Now we’re sure you’ve heard of it. But did you know that a power nap should last around 15 minutes and should be combined with coffee for best effects? First, you drink your coffee, then close your eyes and try to catch some Zs.

If successful, you’ll fall into stage 2 sleep. After waking up, you should feel a boost of alertness, focus and motor skills. A power nap also improves your memory.

  1. A short nap

A short nap should last about 30 minutes. You’ll get a decent amount of stage 2 sleep, and as a result, your mind should be cleared, alertness should be up, and your energy boosted. Just remember to get up as soon as you hear the alarm clock. That is because after half an hour, we typically fall into deep sleep. Once that happens, you likely won’t get up refreshed, but feel kind of “sleep drunk” – confused and unable to focus.

  1. A nap with side effects

60 minutes of shut-eye during the day may come with a price. Your alertness and memory will be improved, along with a creativity boost. The downside is – you’ll enter deep sleep, i.e. slow-wave sleep, and waking up from it comes with grogginess and sometimes headaches. You’ll be refreshed, but for a brief time a bit confused.

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  1. A refreshing nap

This kind of a nap has the best effects, but not all of us have the luxury of taking it. It’s the 90-minute nap – during this time, your brain goes through a full cycle of sleep. That means that afterward you’ll have no problems getting up and you’ll be fully refreshed. This is the perfect nap – not only will you feel better, but also your cognitive functions will improve. If only we had the time for it!

To get the most out of your naps, take a look at the sleep stages graph.

Sleep stages in per cent

As you probably know, during 90 minutes, your brain goes through several stages of sleep.

Stage 1 – light sleep. It’s often accompanied by a sense of falling. This sleep is so light, you can actually hear what’s going on around you. Your brain produces alpha and theta waves. This stage lasts 5-15 minutes.

Stage 2 – light sleep. During the next 5-15 minutes, the body temperature drops, and your heartbeat, breathing and brain waves start slowing down.

Stage 3 – deep sleep. When you enter this stage, it’s difficult to wake up. Your breath and heartbeat reach the slowest level and muscles relax. The brain produces delta waves. During this stage, the body enters “repair mode.”

Stage 4 – REM. Generally you enter this stage after approximately 90 minutes. This is the part of sleep when the body is motionless with high activity in the brain. Most of our dreaming takes place in REM sleep.

Just be careful and don’t take your naps in the evening, or late afternoon. You’ll only set yourself up for some trouble falling asleep at night.

Happy napping!