Taking a nap in the afternoon can serve as a reset button for some people, allowing them to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to finish their day. However, it may be best to aim for short 20-minute naps for the greatest benefit.

The actual time a person needs to sleep for during a nap may vary slightly depending on their age and personal sleep cycle.

That said, most people will feel best after a nap that does not dip too far into their sleep cycle.

In this article, learn more about how long a should be, as well as what the benefits are.

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For the most benefit, a person should aim to nap for 20 minutes.

The National Sleep Foundation recommend taking a 20-minute nap to wake up feeling refreshed. The ideal nap duration can vary from person to person, but most professionals agree that shorter naps are better if a person's goal is to wake up feeling refreshed and alert.

However, there may also be some benefit to longer naps. For instance, the results of a 2019 study indicated that 25-, 35-, and even 45-minute naps significantly reduced signs of stress and fatigue in physically active men. It also improved their attention and physical performance.

With this said, short naps, or "power naps," can help a person feel more awake and refreshed.

The National Sleep Foundation warn that taking longer naps may leave a person feeling groggy, as they will need to wake up from a deeper sleep.

It is important to time naps well due to the sleep cycle. As a person sleeps, their brain naturally moves through different stages of sleep. These stages cause different brain wavelengths and release specific hormones into the bloodstream.

These effects can cause noticeable changes in a person's waking state after taking a nap, depending on which stage they wake up in.

In the most beneficial naps, a person will only go into the first and second stages of sleep. These stages are more superficial and can help a person feel refreshed without them needing to go into a deeper sleep.

During a full night's sleep, a person will go through their entire sleep cycle multiple times. For most people, the whole sleep cycle is somewhere around 90–110 minutes long.

Allowing the brain and body to reach the deep stages of sleep makes a person much less responsive to outside stimuli. It also causes the brain to release compounds that can make a person more tired, which helps them stay asleep for the whole night.

A person who wakes up from a nap feeling heavy and groggy likely went further into their sleep cycle. If this happens regularly after naps, they may want to check how long they are sleeping for and set an alarm.

Although about 15–20 minutes is ideal for adults, the best napping durations can vary by age.

For instance, newborns sleep most of the day, as their development takes a lot of energy. Young babies are also likely to take a few long naps throughout the day, which is good for their health.

Toddlers and young children will start to develop a regular sleep pattern, but they could still benefit from taking a nap in the afternoon. For example, they may respond well to longer naps of around an hour in the middle of their day.

Teenagers face many challenges that can make them feel tired, such as hormonal changes, studying, and early school start times. One 2019 study found that the best nap duration for teenagers is around 30–60 minutes.

Naps can be a healthful addition to a person's day, as long as they are short and do not interfere with a person's nighttime sleep.

The authors of a 2019 study note the long history of research that has found strong evidence of the health effects of napping, including:

  • improving cognitive performance
  • enhancing short term memory
  • improving mood
  • reducing sleepiness and fatigue
  • boosting athletic performance

When it comes to long term health effects, there is nothing to suggest that napping is unhealthful in most individuals.

That said, some people may not benefit from naps. For instance, people who have sleep disorders such as insomnia may find that napping makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep at night.

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Finding a quiet place to lie down makes it easier to nap.

Here are some basic tips for healthful napping:

  • Sleep for no longer than 30 minutes: The ideal nap duration is around 20 minutes and should be no longer than 30 minutes. This helps prevent the body from reaching the deeper stages of sleep, and it keeps a person from waking up feeling groggy.
  • Find a quiet place to lie down and sleep: This can help a person make the most of the short time they have to nap.
  • Avoid taking late naps: Taking a nap around the middle of the day or early afternoon may be best. Taking naps in the early evening may cause a person to feel very alert later into the night, which could disrupt their sleep schedule.
  • Stick to a routine: Some research has found that those who nap habitually get better sleep at night.

Although 20 minutes is the ideal nap length for most people, it can vary. A person may want to take a series of test naps of around 10–45 minutes to find their ideal nap length.

Taking a nap is a great way to give the body and mind a short rest, allowing a person to wake up feeling refreshed for the rest of their day.

However, the duration of a nap is important. Taking a long nap may leave a person feeling tired and sluggish. Also, napping too late in the day may make it hard for them to get to sleep at night.

In general, the ideal nap is about 20 minutes around the middle of the day.