Napping Can Dramatically Increase Learning, Memory, Awareness, And More

Many Europeans believe in the benefits of napping so much that they shut down in the afternoon to allow everyone to take a quick power nap, recharge, and come back to work.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in the U.S. where a mid-day nap is not only a luxury, but often times is perceived as downright laziness.

If you’re among those who enjoy the occasional midday snooze, you should continue the habit as studies have shown that it’s a normal and integral part of the circadian (sleep-wake cycle) rhythm.

Studies have shown that short naps can improve awareness and productivity. You don’t need much; just 15 to 20 minutes can make a world of difference.

According to a study from the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that children who didn’t take their afternoon nap didn’t display much joy and interest, had a higher level of anxiety, and lower problem solving skills compared to other children who napped regularly. The same goes for adults as well. Researchers with Berkeley found that adults who regularly take advantage of an afternoon nap have a better learning ability and improved memory function. Why is napping so essential? Because it gives your brain a reboot, where the short-term memory is cleared out and our brain becomes refreshed with new defragged space.

How long should you nap?

According to experts, 10 to 20 minutes is quite enough to refresh your mind and increase your energy and alertness. The sleep isn’t as deep as longer naps and you’re able to get right back at your day immediately after waking up. If you nap for 30 minutes you may deal with a 30-minute grogginess period because you wake up just as your body started entering a deeper stage of sleep. The same can be said if you sleep for an hour, but on the other hand, these 60-minute naps provide an excellent memory boost. The longest naps— lasting about 90 minutes—are recommended for those people who just don’t get enough sleep at night. Since it’s a complete sleep cycle, it can improve emotional memory and creativity.

There you have it – naps are good for you physical and mental well being so you should practice them as much as you can. However, be advised that you shouldn’t sacrifice nighttime sleeping for an afternoon nap, they should be an addition to a good night sleep.


Great overview on napping, Theresa! I am so torn on whether adults should consider napping. I think in the end it is really about individual differences, in other words, what is best for any one individual. For some folks who are able to obtain a full night’s sleep, napping during the day may be unnecessary, and could actually interfere with nighttime sleep. For other folks, and for a wide variety of reasons, a nap can be exactly what is needed. And this may be on a regular, daily basis, or it may be on an intermittent basis.

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At the annual APSS meeting I think it was two years ago, Dr. David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania said he research was showing that what appears to be most important is the total amount of sleep across a 24hr period. I thought this was fascinating, because so many of us are trained to think that we need a good nights sleep, and that any other sleep isn’t quite the same. Again, I really believe it is all about individual differences. One “prescription” or “recommendation” does not apply to all. And as I am sure most folks know, our sleep needs change across our lifespan as well.

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I am also undecided on napping for healthy adults if being more vigilant about sleep hygiene and sleep schedule can do the trick.

That said, I need to nap all the time, but I have a chronic illness, which puts me in a different category. I must say, however, that after a day of cognitive fog, an afternoon nap makes me feel like I’m actually awake! Too bad that feeling doesn’t happen to me until midafternoon!

How do you know if your napping because you didn’t get enough hours of sleep or because your device is not working or you need adjustments to the device?

@Miki - Try talking to your sleep care team or equipment provider to see if there is something wrong with your readings. This is assuming you have reporting software on your machine that monitors adherence.

I love my naps. If I’m dragging and don’t nap, the rest of the day is just a slog. And it definitely increases my productivity. It’s a shame people in the US are so judgmental about naps. When I worked at a law firm (which had sleep/nap rooms), I kept my napping secret for fear of being judged lazy. If you body is telling you to sleep, what sort of perversity is it to think it’s wiser not to?

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