Power Naps

Written by Chinmay Shankar

Last Updated June 13, 2024

Dr. Waiz Wasey Fact checked by Dr. Waiz Wasey

Doing nothing is hard work. The sentence alone sounds like it came from Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde a century ago, but even today, it is apt for our world. Constantly flooded with notifications, little dopamine rushes, and unlimited entertainment options laced with forever ticking work deadlines. In all of these commotions, we forget or try to forget one superpower we have – we can reboot our mind and body with a short sleep. How about that? Sometimes stopping to do nothing can help you a lot.

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And if it refreshes your mind and divides the day into manageable chunks, you can call it a 'Power Nap.' But are power naps really that good? And what are the health benefits of a power nap? We will find similar answers to more such questions related to napping, afternoon sleep, midday nap, and siesta in this blog post.

power naps - getting more sleep & energy in 20 minutes a day

What is a power nap?

A power nap is a short nap from which the sleeper wakes up before hitting deep sleep. It often lasts around 15-20 minutes and is known to help enhance memory for the elderly and increase creativity and productivity while helping reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety.

A good siesta can also boost the immune system and brain functions, particularly for shift workers. Furthermore, it is also known to reduce the risk of cardiac diseases.

But one thing about power naps – don't overdo it.

How long should a power nap last, and why?

Evidence suggests that sleeping too long (over 20 minutes) during the day or late in the evening can disturb your body’s internal clock, aka, circadian rhythm. This can give rise to sleep inertia (the groggy, tired feeling) and rob you of your valuable nighttime sleep. So, we recommend setting an alarm for 20 minutes or less during your power naps.

shocked young woman in pajama with alarm clock

The main disadvantages of oversleeping during a power nap includes - 

It disrupts your sleeping patterns:

Students and professionals working from home often fall into this vicious cycle. They study or work overnight and try to compensate for one long stretch of nighttime sleep with scattered chunks of daytime naps. Now, if you have been there, you would know the dilemma; you try to sleep during the day, you sleep too much, and now you are awake at night, eventually leading to the disruption of the circadian rhythm and introducing unwanted circadian rhythm disorders.

sleepy young business woman sitting at office desk

It gives you sleep inertia:

Take longer naps of over 20 minutes, and you will often wake up like the protagonist of a time-travel movie - disoriented and confused. A snooze longer than an hour makes you groggy and slow enough for a while to bring down your ability to recall and perform high-functioning tasks at hand. This is one of the reasons why napping at the workplace is still a debatable issue, but slowly things are changing, and many offices are including ‘nap time’ in their work schedule.

too much midday naps can affect your night sleep

It could lead to health issues:

In many studies, it has come out that an afternoon nap lasting more than 60 minutes can increase the risk of type-2 diabetes, metabolic problems, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular diseases. So, in a way, daytime napping can be an early indicator of ill health; think of excessive sleeping as more of a symptom than a cause (correlation than causation) for future effects on your body. But that being said, enough data still needs to come out to support these studies, and for the time being, you can still enjoy your post-lunch short snooze fest as a healthy adult.

It could indicate underlying issues:

A consistent need for daytime naps, particularly around lunch, may serve as a potential red flag for underlying sleep issues. This recurring pattern could be indicative of conditions such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or hypersomnia. If you find yourself frequently relying on daytime naps, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to get a diagnosis.

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What are the proven benefits of power naps?

Power napping has the ability to divide your day into two productive halves - pre-nap and post-nap sessions. Although it is not replaceable with night sleep, a napping strategy can still be very effective in planning your day and making it more productive than usual. No wonder corporate offices are also trying to explore the benefits of a 'nap time' for improving the efficiency of their employees.

angry boss looking at employees sleeping in meeting room at office

Even in its internal research, NASA found that a short nap in the cockpit improved the alertness level and job performance of pilots.

Napping can be good if it is done in moderation. For example, a 20-minute nap can improve your working memory and problem-solving skills. It can recharge your brain’s willpower and bring down your stress level. If it improves your cognitive functions, a nap is good for your overall well-being.

A good nap (of 20 minutes or less) can also regulate your appetite by restricting the release of metabolic hormones while you sleep. Additionally, it can regulate White Blood Cells in your body, which further helps with skin and tissue regeneration. In other words, it can help keep your physical appearance (and health) in better shape.

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What do prolonged power naps point towards?

Too many naps or longer naps lasting more than an hour or two can drain your energy and disorient your mental status after you wake up. As the body resists coming out of a deep sleep, you might not feel content even after sleeping for many hours.

Also, check if you are taking sleep replacement naps, like students or working professionals often do. If you are napping out of stress, an inability to sleep at night, or other factors like sleep apnea or similar breathing problems, it might not give you the desired benefits.

In fact, one study found that too much daytime napping can also be an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. Aside from that, too many or too long naps can also be an indicator of sleep apnea, insomnia, and hypersomnia, as previously discussed. These conditions tend to keep you awake at night, leading to excessive sleepiness during the daytime. 

So, prolonged power naps are not something worth ignoring; they can be a symptom of many underlying sleep disorder issues.

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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.