If you take naps, you’re probably doing it wrong

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It’s hard to get my mind to stop racing at night, so to make sure I’m tired enough to fall asleep at bedtime, I’ve always avoided daytime naps at all costs. But it turns out napping does have some pretty sweet benefits that could actually help me — and you — sleep better at night.

Here, learn all about the benefits of napping, the best amount of time to nap and how to take a daytime nap without ruining your sleep at night.

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Benefits of taking a nap

Is taking a nap good for you? According to research, there are plenty of reasons to squeeze a daytime nap into your schedule.

The top health benefits of taking a nap include the following.

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1. Naps energize you

According to one study published in Frontiers in Psychology, participants who took a nap performed better and faster in a 5-meter shuttle run. For the athletes studied, a 45-minute nap proved to be the most effective, over 25- and 35-minute durations. This may be because athletes need more recovery time than non-athletes.

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2. Naps improve your mood

According to a study that examined 40 participants and categorized them into nappers vs. non-nappers, the participants who napped were able to tolerate frustrating scenarios slightly longer than those who didn’t nap. Participants who napped also reported feeling less impulsive.

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3. Naps boost your memory and cognitive function

After learning both single words and word pairs, one study had half of the participants nap after their lesson, while the other half watched DVDs. While item memory (remembering a single word) decreased for both groups, associative memory (remembering the relationship between unrelated items) ranked higher in participants who had napped.

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What’s the best amount of time to nap?

How long is an effective nap, exactly? A nap of around 20 minutes can be beneficial and restorative, says Daniel A. Monti, MD, founding director and CEO of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and author of Tapestry of Health.

Sleeping longer than that during the day can “reinforce a negative cycle of improper sleep at night,” he says, adding that “the majority of sleep should happen during the night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to circadian rhythms.”

In general, shorter naps are more efficient than longer ones. Your circadian rhythm has been carefully calibrated by millions of years of evolution, as well as more recent adaptations to cultural practices.

Therefore, timing your naps is crucial if you want to extract the maximum benefit. Taking a nap under 30 minutes prevents you from entering deep sleep and suffering sleep inertia (a feeling of drowsiness) upon waking.

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Types of naps

Now you know the benefits of napping and how long a daytime nap should be. Next, let’s delve into the different types of power naps that can be good for you, depending on your lifestyle.

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1. Mid-day nap

Taking a mid-day power nap (sometimes called a cat nap) between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. can help boost your energy and mental performance in the latter part of the afternoon. Anyone can benefit from this type of nap.

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2. Sports performance nap

Naps are an excellent way to improve your athletic performance. If you have an important sports competition coming up, try taking a power nap beforehand to get yourself in the game, mentally and physically.

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3. Shift worker nap

Working the night shift can do a number on your body clock. Strategically power napping before heading to work can help keep your schedule on track.

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4. Coffee nap

Also known as the “nap-a-latte,” a coffee nap involves drinking a cup of regular or decaf coffee and then setting a timer for a 20-minute siesta. The theory is that the caffeine will kick in once you wake up so you’ll be raring to go.

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5. New parent nap

Caring for a newborn means skipping out on sleep for yourself. Consider napping during the day while your child sleeps to minimize sleep deprivation.

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How to take a power nap

Ready to get napping? Follow this advice to reap the benefits of taking a nap without ruining your ability to sleep at night.

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1. Keep your nap short

As we’ve mentioned, shorter naps are better. But what happens if you nap for longer than 30 minutes or even 90 minutes? One study shared by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) looked at just that.

It found—alarmingly—that napping for 40 minutes or longer was “associated with a steep increase in the risk of developing metabolic syndrome—a collection of health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess fat around the waist, and high blood sugar that all increase a person’s risk for heart disease.”

The ACC also pointed out a study published in the June 2015 issue of Sleep that “tied naps longer than an hour to an 82% increase in cardiovascular disease,” furthering the theory that longer naps are not good for your health.

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2. Nap in the early afternoon

Per the Mayo Clinic, taking a nap later than 3 p.m. will interfere with your nighttime sleep. So, it’s best to nap earlier in the day if you can. With so many of us working from home these days, you might finally have time for that early afternoon nap.

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3. Create a relaxing nap environment

Try to mimic your sleep environment as best you can. Make sure the room you’re napping in is cool (60-67 degrees is the optimal sleep temperature) and dark.

You may want to wear a sleep mask and put on a white noise machine or app to block out distractions. Listen to your body: When you feel that afternoon slump hit (before 3 p.m.!), try napping during this time since your body is already in drowsy mode.

Need more tips? Here are a few commonly asked nap questions!

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Is taking naps good for you?

Taking naps is good for your health. Research shows people who take naps experience better athletic performance, better moods and better memory and cognitive function than those who don’t nap.

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Is a 30-minute nap good for you?

Shorter naps are better for you. The best amount of time to nap is roughly around 20 minutes. Napping daily for longer than 30 minutes can make you feel groggy upon waking and is associated with higher instances of health conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

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Is it OK to take a two-hour nap every day?

Longer naps aren’t good for your health. Research shows napping for an hour or more can lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease. Short daily naps of about 20 minutes are ideal.

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How late is too late to nake a nap?

Taking a nap later than 3 p.m. will make it hard to fall asleep at night. Aim to take a power nap earlier in the day if you can.

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Is taking a nap after lunch bad?

No. In fact, many experts agree the best time to take a nap is right after lunch. That’s because most of us experience a post-lunch dip in energy around 1 p.m. Take advantage of your body clock and enjoy an afternoon siesta.

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Is taking a nap after working out good?

Yes. Taking a nap after working out can help support muscle recovery. When you snooze, your pituitary gland releases growth hormone, which your muscles need to repair tissue. Just keep in mind that it can be hard to fall asleep after exercising since working out increases your body temperature and endorphins.

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Is taking a nap before studying good?

Yes. Taking a nap before studying can be beneficial. That’s because research shows a power nap can boost your memory. The next time you have a test coming up, try taking a 20-minute nap before you crack open your textbook.

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Is taking a nap with contacts bad?

Yes. In general, you shouldn’t take a nap with your contact lenses in. Sleeping with contacts can lead to a risk of infection and irritation. Note there are extended wear contact lenses you can wear while you sleep. Ask your eye doctor before adding any new products to your routine.

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Take a nap on the right mattress

The right mattress can help you reap all of the benefits of taking a nap. There are a wide range of high-quality mattresses that suit all sleep styles so you can easily find your perfect match. Look for cozy bedding to upgrade your bedroom and make it as comfortable as possible for napping.

Take Saatva’s online mattress quiz to determine which mattress will help you get the most out of your daytime naps.

This article originally appeared on Saatva.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org

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