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At the beginning of the afternoon I usually feel tired, so I take a nap. However my naps usually last 1 to 2 hours, and when I get up I’m really not in the mood of doing anything productive, I’m lethargic.

I think I’ve read not long ago than a nap shouldn’t last longer than [I don’t remember how many] minutes because after that you go into a sleep stage incompatible with an efficient nap, but I can’t remember where I’ve seen that.

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the biggest problem for me is I can not control when I will have an actual sleep. In India, in most of the places, afternoon nap is a ritual, generally after lunch. We try to restrict it to about 20-30 minutes. Yes, if we sleep longer, we loose both the day and night sleep. –  Natwar Lath Aug 1 '12 at 13:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Many people suggest at 15 to 30 minute nap, as any longer you can start falling into a deeper sleep, which can leave you feeling lethargic if you don't then sleep for your usual time (x hours)

When I can get time for a power nap I tend to set my alarm for 30 minutes and that works quite well for me. Worth experimenting to see what suits you.

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+1 do you have a tip how I can fell asleep fast? This is my main problem with napping, I tried it, but its hard for me to fell asleep for 30 min at a distinct time... Ambient music, blindfold your eyes? –  Hauser Jul 30 '12 at 23:12
    
Experimentation and practice, I think - reduce distractions, empty your mind, use music if necessary, focus on slow breathing etc. –  Rory Alsop Jul 31 '12 at 7:03
    
Thanks, 20-30 minutes works from me, I can’t fall asleep during that time but it doesn’t matter (I still get results). I experimented before asking this question 20-30 minutes naps, but I disregarded them because I felt I needed more sleep after that, but it’s just a temporary feeling, when I go back to work the fatigue vanishes. –  Alex Dieulot Oct 28 '12 at 16:14

Aim for a 90 minute nap, or some other multiple of 90 minutes.

The reason for this has to do with sleep cycles. In the average person, the first 65 minutes of sleep don't really do much for you. Yes, they make you feel less tired, but that will wear off quickly and your brain is still going to operate at the same tired level that you had before your nap. You are spending those 65 minutes in the first 4 phases of sleep. They are more akin to your brain powering down, rather than your brain repairing itself.

After you have done the first four phases of sleep, you move into the fifth, REM sleep. This phase usually lasts about 20 minutes and this is the deep, restful sleep that actually repairs the brain from all the work it's done over the day. The final phases of a sleep cycle is 5 more minutes of non-REM sleep that helps to gradually bring your brain back to working mode. In many cases, people will actually wake up very briefly during this time (if they are sleeping during the night), but they won't remember it because it was such a short wakeup.

Each sleep cycle you go through will actually increase the length of your REM sleep phase. Your first cycle may only have 15 minutes of REM, while your fifth cycle might have half and hour of REM.

These sleep cycles are key. If you wake up at 30 minutes, you have basically just wasted half an hour laying unconscious that did very little for you. If you wake up at 60 minutes, you will not only have wasted an hour, but you will feel groggy and lethargic because you were in a much deeper phase of sleep. Waking up during the REM cycle is the worst; you're causing your brain to jump from fully shutdown to fully on in a matter of seconds. Sleeping for 2 hours is bad for the same reason that sleeping for 30 minutes is bad; you've completed one cycle, and now you are interrupting a second.

Completing a sleep cycle is so important that if you allow yourself to fall asleep with no alarm to wake you up, you will most likely wake up at a multiple of 1 1/2 hours. You might wake up at 1 1/2, 3, 4 1/2, 6, 7 1/2, or 9 hours, depending on how tired you were when you went to sleep. This is why many people feel that they actually are the most awake awake 6 hours of sleep, but think that 8 hours of sleep makes them more tired. It's not because their body actually functions better with less sleep, it's because at 6 hours, they are waking up at the end of a sleep cycle, while at 8 hours, they are interrupting a cycle which makes them feel groggy.

On a side note, don't forget to take into account the time it takes you to fall asleep. If you usually take 10 minutes to fall asleep, set an alarm for 100 minutes, 15 minutes to sleep, 115 minutes, etc.

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Take a look on the polyphasic sleep forum for hints on powernapping and possibly reducing your total sleep time.

Personally I like 20 minute naps. I use a white noise generator on my phone to drown out sound (it also turns off after 20 minutes with an alarm) and a blindfold. Then I close my eyes, squint while staring slightly upwards (natural REM sleep position for your eyes), and try to see images in the random noise I see. I try not to think of words or music, just to follow the pretty images, and usually I'm off within 5-10 minutes.

You could also look into triphasic sleep, which is 1.5 hours of sleep every 6.5 hours. This means that you only get 4.5 hours a day, and there are people that feel fine on this schedule.

I got started napping because I was tired during the day but after following the Perfect Health Diet and supplementing for my strengthening my thyroid (slowly working up to 1mg Iodine and some Selenium) I now don't much feel the need for a nap any more. Sleeping less through polyphasic sleep was fun but I never felt fully awesome so now I'm monophasic again. I may try it again sometime.

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