Naps: Beneficial or not?

Naps can give us the boost of energy we need to power through a long day. While there have been plenty of studies that support the benefits of napping, as with all things, napping should be done in moderation.

In this column, we’ll explore the “ideal” nap as well as the benefits and the drawbacks of napping. When describing the “ideal” nap, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact time of day it should be done and precisely what length it should be.

An “ideal” nap can be influenced by a variety of factors including age, time of day, a person’s sleep need, quality of sleep the person gets regularly, whether a person is an early bird or a night owl, and the person’s normal sleep-wake cycle.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has narrowed it down for us. The CDC recommends either shorter 15- to 30-minute naps or longer one-hour to one-hour-and-a-half naps to improve daytime wakefulness.

Longer naps are more recommended for people who have long work shifts or experience inconsistent sleep. Shorter naps are recommended for the general population. According to the National Institute on Aging, these naps should occur in the early afternoon for a person to experience the full benefits of a nap.

Studies have shown that short naps (30 minutes or less) in the afternoon not only help us feel more awake but also actually improve our ability to perform and learn. Napping in adults can boost logical reasoning abilities and reaction time, studies show.

It also has been shown to improve mood and help people feel like they’re performing better even if there’s no change in their actual performance. If you’d like to reap the full benefits of a nap, studies have shown it’s best to drink a caffeinated beverage afterwards to further increase subjective feelings of wakefulness and help improve performance.

Other studies have shown that short naps, less than 30 minutes, during the day are associated with lower rates of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders and may protect people from certain health conditions.

It is important to note that some studies have found that napping excessively has been associated with certain medical conditions. However, it has not been proven whether this is due to napping or if the tendency to nap longer is a result of these conditions.

A major downside of napping, especially for longer periods of time, 30 minutes or more, is sleep inertia. Sleep inertia occurs right after we wake up and is characterized as a person having decreased performance, wakefulness, and increased inclination to go back to sleep.

Because of this, it’s recommended to take some time to “wake up” after a long nap before returning to any rigorous or attention-sensitive tasks. The National Institute of Aging also recommends avoiding napping in the late afternoon or evening because it can interfere with sleeping at an appropriate time at night.

Naps aren’t as simple as we may have thought they were. A variety of factors influence whether we have a “good” nap.

However, in general, much evidence supports shorter 15- to 30-minute naps in the early afternoon having a beneficial effect on our physical and mental health. It’s important to highlight that, as great as naps may be to temporarily improve cognitive function and our alertness, naps can never replace a good night’s sleep.


Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides nonmedical services, including transportation and caregiver support, at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. Its funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United Administration on Aging. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Hyun Ah Michelle Yoon is a Community Caregivers’ student volunteer, slated to graduate from Albany Medical College in 2024.