How long is the ideal nap?

Taking a daily nap can do wonders for your productivity and memory.

I might sound like a nanna, but I’ve taken a 26-minute nap after lunch every day for the past two years.

It is a precise process; I drink a cup of coffee immediately beforehand so the caffeine will work its magic over the course of the following 20 minutes, effectively transforming me into a super-efficient writer monkey when I wake up.

Not only that, but I lay on the couch where I’m least comfortable and I set my alarm for 30 minutes, since it takes me a few minutes to drift off.

Nothing like the romantic Spanish siestas that napping usually suggests. And I’m only in my late 30s.

So what gives? I’m not iron deficient, unwell, depressed, a heavy drinker or an insomniac.

What I am is a freelance writer whose mind grows tired after thinking and creating all day long, so my productivity grinds to “barely breathing” by late afternoon.

Since turning to science to “hack” my daily nap, I’ve become a writing machine.

So why is 26 minutes considered the holy grail of naps?

In 1995, NASA released a study that declared 26 minutes to be the optimum time to let your mind rest. Researchers discovered that this amount of time led to a 34 per cent increase in performance and a 54 per cent increase in alertness.

Productivity is, of course, a major benefit of napping, but so too is improved memory.

University of Pennsylvania researchers found a short nap in the afternoon made the brains of their subjects – 3000 elderly people – perform as if they were five years younger, drastically boosting their thinking and memory skills.

It doesn’t end there.

Sleep deprivation is linked to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

But another study, by the University of Michigan, found those who enjoy a daily noon nap (60 minutes, in this case) were less impulsive and had greater tolerance for frustration compared with those who spent the hour watching a nature documentary.

How to get the most out of your daily nap

  • Sleep earlier in the afternoon, so it doesn’t affect your nighttime slumber.
  • Everyone has a different cut-off, but don’t leave it past 4pm.
  • Factor how long it takes you to fall asleep and set an alarm. A 26-minute sleep may not work for everyone, but keep it under 40 minutes otherwise you risk falling into a deep sleep and waking up groggy.
  • Take a “caffeine nap” – drink a coffee immediately before dozing off, so that the caffeine is in full swing by the time you wake up. Note: This only works for those who fall asleep quickly.
  • Stay relatively comfortable, but not so much that you’re unlikely to get back up again. Working from home? Say no to pyjamas, crawling into your bed and pulling down the shades, but yes to light and some background noise.
  • Speak to your boss about why being unconscious for a short period every lunch makes great, if unexpected, business sense.

Written by Dilvin Yasa.