Is It Actually Healthy To Take A Nap After A Workout?

If you finished your afternoon run, spin class, or yoga session and are feeling more exhausted than reenergized, it might be tempting to take a quick nap before continuing with your day. You're not alone in your urge to shut your eyes for a few minutes: A third of Americans sneak in a snooze during the day (via Sleep Foundation). And a midday nap post-workout not only boosts recovery, but it sets you up for a more productive afternoon. If you work from home, sneaking in an afternoon snooze might be possible after your lunchtime workout, so take advantage of the free, easy recovery boost. 

"Naps are the body's way to facilitate physical recovery after a long or hard workout," Dr. Amy Bender, Clinical Program Director of Athlete Services at the Center for Sleep and Human Performance, told Triathlete Magazine. She added that, in addition to feeling fresh and mentally recovered, napping stimulates human growth hormone and testosterone production, which can speed up physical recovery. According to one study, napping can even help you regulate your emotions, which can be helpful if you had a tough workout or are feeling stressed about the rest of your day.

How to nap post-workout

In most cases, naps can be a great recovery tool if done correctly. Start by hydrating and, if your workout was hard or long, eating a recovery meal before lying down (via Healthline). Then, when you do head to bed, don't nap for longer than 20 minutes. The National Sleep Foundation found that 10 to 20 minutes is the optimal nap length: More than that, and you risk falling into deep sleep and waking up groggy rather than refreshed. For the best sleep quality, ensure that your nap environment is comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark if possible. If you train later in the day, consider switching to an earlier bedtime versus napping in the evening in order to ensure that you get a good night of sleep.

Be aware of how often you're getting the urge to nap, though. Napping occasionally is completely fine, particularly if you had a bad night of sleep. But if every workout is making you want to head back to bed, you may need to rethink your exercise routine. Your need to snooze could also be a sign of an underlying health issue, or a warning from your body that you need more sleep at night in general.