This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Take A 20 Minute Nap

What do you do when you are sleepy in the middle of the day? Many Americans pick up a coffee or energy drink, but this isn't actually necessary. A good nap can be a powerful tool when it comes to boosting your energy, and you don't even need to carve too much time out of your day to do it. In fact, experts generally recommend against taking long naps, as long naps often leave you feeling even groggier than before. This is called sleep inertia, and it happens because napping for longer than thirty minutes lets you fall into a deep sleep, which makes it harder to wake up (per Nature and Science of Sleep).

A long nap can also interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. This will disturb your sleep schedule and may leave you feeling sleepy for days to come. For these reasons, experts recommend restricting your naps to around 10-20 minutes (via Sleep Foundation).

Benefits of a 10-20 minute nap

When you take a short nap, you wake up before you enter a deep sleep stage, so unlike longer naps, short naps won't leave you feeling drowsy. They also won't disrupt your sleep schedule. Instead, they offer restorative rest which reduces fatigue, helps to regulate your emotions, enhances alertness and performance, and improves your ability to learn and form memories (per Sleep Foundation). You can enhance these effects by drinking coffee before your nap, or washing your face or exposing yourself to bright light as soon as you wake up (per Clinical Neurophysiology).

A 1998 study published in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences found that a 20 minute nap around lunch time may even help prevent the midday sleepiness that many people experience.

20 minute naps may be especially beneficial for drivers. Since tiredness leads to hundreds of thousands of car crashes each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drivers who start to feel sleepy should drink a cup or two of coffee and then pull over to a safe place for a 20 minute nap before they continue driving. Of course, this is a short-term solution and is not a replacement for a full night of sleep.