I'll be the first to admit: I love napping. I basically embody the quote by Winnie the Pooh, “Let’s begin by taking a smallish nap or two…”

Is this good for our bodies, though?  Will napping before starting your projects or homework really make you more efficient?  

Will napping before starting your projects or homework really make you more efficient?

Research has shown that 20-minute power naps can boost short-term motor skills, whereas naps that last an hour can aid in increased creativity2.  However, a nap that longer than an hour can make you feel more tired than before.  This leads to grogginess and lethargy.

 

That very fear of napping too long brings me to my next point: should you just go for that quick caffeine fix and grab a cup of coffee? Coffee will increase your alertness for a short amount of time, but it does not have the same effect that napping does on your motor skills.  You may be more prone to mistakes because memory performance decreases4. Compared to napping, coffee is less efficient.

Waking from these deeper sleep cycles affects your short-term cognitive function, causing you to experience a recovery period, much like a “nap hangover”, before being able to complete your tasks.

However, if you’re like me and can’t make yourself leave your bed once you lay down, go for coffee.  Napping is tricky for us deep-sleep nappers.  If you nap for longer than an hour, your body goes starts to go into deeper sleep cycles.  Waking from these deeper sleep cycles affects your short-term cognitive function, causing you to experience a recovery period, much like a “nap hangover”, before being able to complete your tasks.  

  This diagram depicts this effect; a brief nap being about 20 minutes, short being under an hour, and long being over an hour.

This diagram depicts this effect; a brief nap being about 20 minutes, short being under an hour, and long being over an hour.

In essence, it is most beneficial to have a quick 20-minute power nap. According to a study done on napping’s effects on human circadian rhythm, there were no differences in subjects’ bodies who napped regularly versus sporadically1.  Even if you’re not a regular napper or planning to become one, a quick nap can definitely help you get through those tough days.  Try setting your cell phone alarm for 20 minutes and see if your productivity increases afterwards.

However, let me head out and grab my second coffee of the day.

Dana Smith is a sophomore in Wiess College at Rice University.

Resources

1. Campbell, S.; Dawson, D.; Zulley, J. When The Human Circadian System Is Caught Napping: Evidence for Endogenous Rhythms Close to 24 Hours. American Sleep Disorders and Sleep Research Society. 1993, 16, 638–640. http://epub.uni-regensburg.de/19879/1/zulley7.pdf (accessed 2015). 

2. Lohr, J. Can Napping Make Us Smarter? Scientific American, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-napping-make-us-smarter/ (accessed Sep 2015). 

3. Maron, L.; Rechtschaffen, A.; Wolpert, E. Sleep Cycle During Napping. JAMA Network, http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=488658 (accessed 2015). 

4. Soong, J. The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps. WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps (accessed Sep 2015). 

5. Stromberg, J. The Scientific Guide to Napping. Vox, http://www.vox.com/2015/8/17/9164571/naps-sleep-napping (accessed 2015).

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