Finding the time for a quick snooze offers a lot of benefits. A quick nap can enhance your performance, increase alertness, and improve your mood. The key to napping is to keep naps short — 10 to 20 minutes— so you don’t go too far into the sleep cycle, which can actually leave you feeling groggy and more tired than before.

When you nap for 10 to 20 minutes, you enter into the first and sometimes second stages of sleep. That’s just enough to refresh you and get the benefits associated with napping.

During true sleep your body has the opportunity to complete all five stages of the sleep cycle a few times, which for most healthy adults repeats every 90 to 110 minutes.

When you go into deeper sleep, your brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli, making it harder to wake up and increasing the likelihood of grogginess and fatigue.

The health benefits of napping have been scientifically proven. Here’s a look at what a quick power nap can do for you.

Improved performance

Various studies have found that daytime naps ranging from 10 to 30 minutes can increase performance and make you more productive at work. Naps have been shown to improve:

  • psychomotor speed
  • reaction time
  • alertness

Enhanced learning

Based on various studies, napping during the day can improve your learning skills. Not only does napping improve your focus and memory, which can help you learn and retain information, but studies have also found that ability to learn new information is enhanced immediately after a nap.

The benefits of napping on learning begin early on. A 2015 study found that napping improved word learning in infants.

Lower blood pressure

New research shows that a midday nap can significantly lower blood pressure. The results of a study presented at the 2019 American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session shows that midday sleep appears to be just as effective in lowering blood pressure levels as other lifestyle changes, such as cutting salt and alcohol consumption.

The study found that on average, naps lowered blood pressure by 5 mm Hg. This is also comparable to taking a low-dose blood pressure medication, which usually lowers blood pressure 5 to 7 mm Hg.

Just a 2 mm Hg drop in blood pressure can reduce your risk of a heart attack by as much as 10 percent.

Better mood

Napping during the day can improve your mood. Short naps boost energy levels and help get you over the afternoon slump. They’ve also been linked to increased positivity and a better tolerance for frustration.

Taking a quick nap can also help you feel less tired and irritable if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the previous night.

While napping has been shown to offer numerous health benefits, it can produce side effects and even have negative consequences for your health when not timed properly or if you have certain underlying conditions.

Naps that exceed 20 minutes can increase sleep inertia, which leaves you feeling groggy and disoriented. This happens when you awake from a deep sleep. If you’re already sleep-deprived, the symptoms of sleep inertia tend to be more severe and last longer.

Napping too long or too late in the day can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. This is even worse for people with insomnia who already have trouble sleeping at night.

Longer daytime naps have also been associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, according to a 2015 meta-analysis. The results showed that daytime naps longer than 60 minutes were associated with a higher risk of heart disease and dying from all causes compared to not napping. Age, overall health, and sleeping habits may play a role.

Limiting your naps to 10 to 20 minutes can leave you feeling more alert and refreshed. More than that, especially longer than 30 minutes, is likely to leave you feeling sluggish, groggy, and more tired than before you closed your eyes.

The exception to this is if you’re sleep-deprived and have the luxury of being able to nap long enough to complete a full sleep cycle, which is at least 90 minutes.

The best time to take a nap depends on individual factors like your sleep schedule and age. For most people, napping early in the afternoon is the best way to go. Napping after 3 p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep.

Children and adults have different sleep needs and these continue to change throughout our lifetime. Figuring out how long naps should be will depend on how much sleep you need per night and how much you’re actually getting.

In children, the recommendation for nap times varies with age as follows:

  • 0 to 6 months: two or three daytime naps lasting from 30 minutes to 2 hours each
  • 6 to 12 months: two naps a day, lasting from 20 minutes to a few hours
  • 1 to 3 years: one afternoon nap lasting 1 to 3 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: one afternoon nap lasting 1 or 2 hours
  • 5 to 12 years: no nap needed if they’re getting the recommended 10 or 11 hours of sleep per night

A healthy adult doesn’t need to nap, but can benefit from a nap of 10 to 20 minutes, or 90 to 120 when sleep-deprived. There is some evidence that older adults may benefit from napping for an hour in the afternoon.

Getting too much or too little sleep can have negative effects and both can be an indicator of an underlying issue.

Sleeping too much can leave you feeling groggy long after you get up. Oversleeping has been linked to an increased risk of a number of conditions, including:

Too little sleep can also have a number of negative effects on your health. Not getting enough sleep causes daytime sleepiness and irritability, and can impact your performance.

Other effects of sleep deprivation include:

Napping may be a luxury that few people can afford in these hectic times, but if you can manage to get even just 10 minutes of shut-eye during the day, you can reap numerous health benefits.