How to Take Naps: The Science Behind the Snooze


The Wall Street Journal combined data from the Pew Research Center, American Academy of Sleep Medicine and several universities to find the benefits for taking naps of varying lengths. The Fourcast decided to test them out. Each of the four time lengths is rated on a scale from one to 10, with 10 being the best. 

10-20 Minutes

Received little sleep last night or just generally sleep deprived? Need to make sure you don’t fall asleep during your next class? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the power nap is the right option for you. Sleep for 10 to 20 minutes (perhaps during Conference or a free period) to quickly get back on your feet. Sleeping for this length keeps you in the stages of non-REM sleep. Sometimes, this nap is called the stage 2 nap.

My rating: 6.5/10. For the first hour, I felt pretty solid; however, my energy began to wear off at hour two.

30 Minutes

Forgot to finish the second half of your chemistry problem set and had to go to bed later than usual? Feeling tired but not that tired? Have a free period and don’t have anything to do? Then this is the nap you need. Warning: this may cause a groggy feeling for up to 30 minutes after you first wake up, you will feel much better afterwards.

My rating: 10/10. It’s as though I woke up from one of those naps you take after coming home from a Mo Ranch or any other camp where you haven’t slept in a week. My energy was replenished and I was ready to conquer my homework (I felt ready to take on the world, to be more exact).

90 Minutes

Finished all of your homework early? Need some creative inspiration? Ninety minute naps encompass a full cycle of sleep. It includes REM sleep, both the lighter stages and the deeper stages. Your heartrate and breathing rate increases during REM sleep and your brain is more active. Thus, during this time, you experience dreams. Babies spend up to 50 percent of their sleep in this stage, while adults spend about 20 percent. Nevertheless, it helps your emotions, creativity and procedural memory such as playing the violin or swinging a tennis racket along. Furthermore, for those of you who pulled all-nighters, 90 minute naps help you make connections in the brain. The upside to these naps is that you can easily wake up from them.

My rating: 5/10. Although this nap is quite energizing, I felt like it was actually quite difficult to wake up from. I was also in a daze for a while.