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Ideal Nap Length

Health2013-5-10By: Libby Znaimer

What’s the ideal length of time for a nap?

After those cases of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, the National Transportation Safety Board called for “controlled naps” to be built into night shifts.

Experts at the agency say a 26-minute nap would improve performance by a third and increase alertness by more than half. But other sleep specialists say 26 minutes is too long because you could fall into a deep sleep. The British Sleep Research Council recommends having a cup of coffee before a nap. The caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in. That’s what these experts consider the best nap length. The java jolt will help you wake up at that time and be more alert.

The caveat is if you haven’t had a wink of sleep the night before, this won’t be enough to refresh you, if you’ve had merely a poor night’s sleep, it will work.

The timing of the nap is also important. Too early and your body may not be ready to sleep yet, but a nap that is too late in the day might make it harder to fall asleep come bedtime.

The consensus is early afternoon is often the best time, between 1-3pm, when many people experience a post-lunch dip in energy.


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