Napping 101

by Riley Sugarman

photography courtesy of Amanda Willis

College students lead busy lives with even busier schedules, and it can be draining to keep up with it all. Depending on caffeine to get through the day can be addictive and unhealthy. Luckily, there are other alternatives.

Napping is not just for toddlers and the elderly, contrary to popular belief. Taking naps may seem unnecessary and like a waste of time for those with busy lifestyles, but when done correctly, it can be beneficial in the long run.

According to Nicole Lovato from The Conversation, napping can improve memory, cognitive functioning, mood and reaction time.

“The overall benefits of naps are similar to those experienced after consuming caffeine (or other stimulant medications) but without side effects of caffeine dependence and disrupted sleep,” Lovato said.

Jenna Lanciani (Wheelock ’19) said she takes naps when she needs an extra energy boost during the day.

“I am definitely a fan of the 20-minute power nap,” said Lanciani, “I always feel refreshed and better able to focus after.”

Feeling tired in the afternoon is nothing to worry about—it’s completely natural. By waking up early for work or school, our bodies’ natural sleep cycles automatically send us into nap mode around 2 or 3 p.m.

This can be worsened by not getting enough sleep, having a carb-heavy diet or the lack of physical activity during the day. Sleeping enough, adding more fats to your diet and taking a five-minute walk every couple of hours can lessen afternoon fatigue.

Another effective way to snap out of the afternoon lull is by taking a quick power nap.

The sleep cycle is 90-minutes long and very effective for a full recharge, but most students and working professionals don’t have that kind of time during the day.

Sleeping between 20 and 30 minutes is the most effective way to nap. Sleeping past 30 minutes goes too far into the sleep cycle, which could replace the potential benefits with grogginess instead. For some, sleeping for fewer than 20 minutes is not enough time to recharge.

In a study monitoring pilots in the cockpit, NASA found the perfect amount of nap time is 26 minutes. The results showed that napping can improve performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent.

26-minute power naps are short enough to fit in between classes for a little boost, and they can serve as quick breaks while studying or doing homework.

Napping is a much healthier alternative to caffeinated options such as coffee and energy drinks, which can be addictive and mess with the body’s natural sleep cycle.

Lanciani is pro-napping, and recommends students try to nap instead of having caffeine, if their schedules permit.

“I’d lean more toward skipping the coffee and just taking a quick nap instead, because I know it’s better for me, but I don’t always have the time,” said Lanciani.

While napping may be a great way to recharge, there are times when it could cause more harm than good.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, napping for too long or too late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep at night and negatively affect one’s sleep schedule. Also, napping for too little or much time can cause grogginess and disorientation by waking up during deep sleep.

Students should try to get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, but life can get in the way. Napping is the next best option. Next time, skip the coffee and hit the hay.