Oct 18, 2022 - Health

Axios Finish Line: Nap power

Illustration of a brain wearing a sleeping eye mask.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

America needs more sleep. And 80% of us try to catch up with naps.

Why it matters: A third of Americans aren't getting enough sleep at night. When work schedules, parenting and life get in the way, naps — done right — can be highly effective at filling the gaps.

The stakes: As we've reported, medical research has linked insufficient sleep to obesity, depression, anxiety, and even heart failure and dementia.

  • Lack of sleep also chips away at our alertness, memory and ability to reason.

Naps are no replacement for a good night's rest. But the right kind of nap can alleviate the shorter-term effects of sleep deprivation, studies have shown.

  • One study found that napping increased endurance and physical performance. Another linked short snoozes to stress relief.
  • A Johns Hopkins study compared nappers to non-nappers: Those who dozed were better at recalling things and drawing figures — both signs of strong cognitive function.

Our top nap tips:

  1. How long? The ideal nap lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, the Sleep Foundation says. That allows the body to get the benefits of resting without entering into deep sleep, leaving you groggy when you wake up. Set an alarm!
  2. When? Take naps in the early afternoon, the Mayo Clinic says. A nap after 3 p.m. might interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
  3. Where? A nap is only as good as its environment. Find a quiet, comfortable place to doze off — at work, that could be a break room. Use ear plugs and an eye mask to block out distractions. Companies should work to make napping a more normal practice, and provide places where workers can take some much-needed rest.

The bottom line: Think of naps like workouts. They're another tool in your kit to facilitate a healthy, happy life.

Go deeper