Dear Jack: How Long Should A Nap Be?

Chapel Hill, NC – You probably hated nap time as a kid like me. But now, you might have a new appreciation for catching some quick sleep during the day. Here’s my advice on how long to nap.

Set A Timer

We have all been through it before. You lay down for a nap, end up sleeping for too long, and you can’t go back to sleep when night time comes. Or worse, you take a long nap and end up waking up even more tired than before!

For the first problem, we only sleep for so long so if you burn that up in the morning, your brain will have a harder time getting back into rest. But for the second problem, now you get into the science of sleep. According to, after a half hour to an hour of sleep, our brain goes into a slower wave pattern. This leads to sleep inertia if you wake up too soon and your brain is still on this slower pattern.

So while it may seem natural to just hit your head on the pillow and nap for as long as your body needs, you need to keep a tight leash on things.

Short Naps

Sometimes, you just need a quick boost of energy. A nap is perfect for this and is even better than taking caffeine to numb your body’s fatigue.

Taking a 20 minute or even a 10 minute nap can recharge your body, and according to, it will not put your brain into a deeper level so you can avoid sleep inertia and get right back to work once you wake up.

Also, look into taking a 26 minute nap. This is a method used by fighter pilots in various countries and has been scientifically determined to provide the most alertness and energy.

Long Naps

But a 10 to 20 minute nap does not always cut it. Often, this is because you have not gotten enough sleep the previous night or you have just been too busy to get much sleep consistently.

A good minimum length is 90 minutes in these instances. This will allow your brain to go into that slower wave pattern, which rejuvenates memory, creativity and more. But more importantly, this also gives you enough time to cycle out of this pattern so you can wake refreshed and ready to go.

The Guardian recommends naps as long as 90 to 120 minutes for these instances. Even 45 minute naps may work in these instances too.

Photo by Rebecca Siegel.

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