The trick behind a perfect nap

Jessica Lee, Feature Editor

ArtOfNappingPeople often take naps for a boost of energy.  What most people don’t know is that there are different benefits and detriments depending on when the nap is taken and for how long.

According to WebMD, there are two basic categories of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM).  NREM sleep is further broken down into four primary stages, with the first being light sleep, the second characterized by decreased awareness, and the third and fourth being slow-wave sleep.  Waking up from slow-wave sleep, the deepest kind, will result in “sleep inertia,” which is a temporary groggy feeling.  REM sleep, the final stage of sleeping, is associated with dreaming.

With school work and extracurricular activities, many students don’t get enough sleep and often take naps.

“Napping benefits you if you’re sleep deprived,” AP Psychology teacher Lana Gentry said.  “Teenagers need nine hours and 15 minutes of sleep every night and that’s why they’re always so tired.”

Sara Mednick, an assistant psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, in an interview with Wall Street Journal columnist Sumathi Reddy, states that how long one should nap depends on what the person needs.  A 10-to-20-minute power nap is sufficient for a quick boost of alertness.  A 60-minute nap is adequate for cognitive memory processing – helping with remembering facts, places, and faces – but may result in some grogginess.  A 90-minute nap helps creativity and emotional and procedural memory, as in learning how to ride a bike, but might also cause slight grogginess.

“I usually nap [for] around 30 minutes and when I wake up, I feel energized,” senior Linda Chang said.

Chang most likely wakes up in stage two.

“I usually nap for two to four hours, and I always wake up feeling groggy,” junior Phong Do said.

REM sleep, according to WebMD, usually occurs after 90 minutes and Do most likely wakes up in this phase.

In a 2006 study in the journal Sleep, Flinders University psychology professor Leon Lack compared naps from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.  Lack tested 24 individuals after each nap on a range of mental-processing tasks.  He found that the sharpness of the individuals who napped for ten minutes was apparent almost immediately and remained so for around two to two and a half hours.

The individuals who took 20- to 30-minute naps tended to feel groggy afterwards for about 30 minutes.  However, those individuals began to exhibit mental sharpness that lasted a bit longer compared to those who had napped for 10 minutes.

In addition to the duration of a nap, the time of day that someone naps can also have different effects. In an interview with Reddy, Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine’s Sleep Medicine Center, said the circadian rhythms of the human body make people expect to be awake in the morning to the early night and therefore, napping later on in the day may interfere with nighttime sleep.  The best time to nap is between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“If you take naps when your brain doesn’t expect to be sleeping, you feel kind of thrown off,” Pelayo said, in the interview with Reddy.

“I nap after track practice, usually around six,” sophomore Martina Gapasin said.  “When I wake up, one hour or two hours later, I’m no longer tired and I end up [going to] sleep a lot later than I should, usually past midnight.”

Napping at the right time and for the right amount of time can, in fact, make a significant impact.