What is a power nap?
"Power naps are typically considered a 20- or 30-minute nap. If you're having trouble powering through the second half of the day or if you feel sleepy sometimes, taking these naps can really help you maintain alertness and can be either in addition to, or instead of using coffee or other forms of caffeine," says Dr. Deirdre Ann Conroy, a behavioral sleep specialist at the University of Michigan.
Conroy warns that power naps are not a great idea for everyone, in particular people who have difficulty sleeping at night or insomnia. "Taking naps during the day can really interfere with the quality of sleep that you get at night. And so we typically recommend people who have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep to avoid napping during the day," says Dr. Conroy.
How to take a power nap
If you don't have sleep issues or insomnia and want to try power napping, follow the tips below from Dr. Conroy on how to take a power nap when you feel sleepy or want a quick energy boost.
Set an alarm for 20 to 30 minutes max
It may not seem like much, but 20-minute naps are the sweet spot when it comes to helping you feel more awake and not groggy. Dr. Conroy advises setting an alarm to ensure you don't snooze for too long. "If we think about our sleep cycle, we tend to transition into very deep stages of sleep after about 20 to 30 minutes. And so you actually don't want to have a long sleep period in the middle of the day. You can feel better after about 20 to 30 minutes of lighter stages of sleep," Dr. Conroy says.
Staying in the lighter sleep stages during your nap is key to making sure you feel better, since waking up from a deep sleep suddenly during the day (or anytime) can feel jarring and make you feel less-than-rested.
Take your nap earlier in the day
Timing when you take your nap is just as important as limiting how long you sleep for. If you take a power nap too late in the day, you risk messing up your sleep later that night. No matter how tired you are, you want to prioritize solid sleep at night over a shorter nap time during the day.
In terms of an ideal time frame, Dr. Conroy says that can vary because "internal clocks are all different. I've heard people say not [to nap] after 5 p.m., but my 5 p.m. might be different than your 5 p.m. So I just like to keep it general, like early in the day or evening time, whatever that is for you," says Dr. Conroy.