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Best Way To Power Nap: Length, Timing, Perks & Expert Tips

Published
2022-07-01
Updated
2023-05-12
Person taking a power nap on couch

How to power nap?

  • The ideal length for a power nap is between 10-20 minutes.
  • The best time of day for a power nap is during the natural dip of your circadian rhythm, which occurs for many of us between 1-3 p.m.
  • Avoid power napping if you have insomnia, you are trying to shift your sleep schedule, or it's too late in the day.
  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment and use relaxation techniques to fall asleep quickly.

Use the RISE app to have your best power nap (and nighttime sleep). RISE can predict your afternoon energy dip, run a sleep environment check, help you relax before your nap, and wake you up gradually so you're ready to tackle the rest of the day.

If you’re feeling sluggish and struggling to stay focused, a power nap can help. These short bouts of sleep can boost your energy and mood, enhance your productivity, and help you make up for lost sleep, all without post-nap grogginess.

Here, we’ll answer all of your power nap questions, help you determine if a power nap is right for you, and show you how the RISE app can help you have your best power nap (and nighttime sleep). 


What is a Power Nap?

A power nap is a short nap, typically lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. Power naps provide a quick energy boost, increase alertness, and improve mood and cognitive functioning without causing sleep inertia – the transient phase of grogginess, disorientation, and impaired thinking upon waking. 

Compared to longer naps, power naps offer the advantage of a quicker return to daily activities and less risk of interfering with nighttime sleep. However, they may not provide the same restorative benefits associated with longer naps, which can include enhanced memory consolidation and creativity. 

Power naps can benefit a wide range of individuals, including busy professionals, students, and those with irregular work schedules, who need a quick energy boost to maintain productivity and focus throughout the day.

Do Power Naps Work?

Despite their short duration, the benefits of power naps are proven and wide-ranging. 

Power naps provide a quick energy and mood boost, increase alertness, and improve cognitive performance. These benefits can be felt immediately and last for a couple of hours. 

Power naps are effective even when you’re sleep deprived and can help you pay back sleep debt. Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night (it’s not eight hours for everyone). The RISE app calculates how many hours of sleep you need and tracks your sleep debt, so you know whether you need to pay some back. We recommend keeping your sleep debt below five hours to maximize your energy each day. 

Whether a power nap is the best nap for you depends on your individual sleep needs, time constraints, and desired outcomes in terms of increased energy and cognitive performance.

We cover the best nap length for you and whether naps are good for you here. 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have. Power naps can help you pay it back.

What are the Benefits of Power Naps?

Research shows power naps can improve:

  • Alertness and focus: Power naps help increase alertness by allowing the brain to recharge during short periods of rest. 
  • Concentration: Power naps improve our ability to direct and maintain attention on specific tasks or information.
  • Memory consolidation: A brief nap can improve short-term recall of information, facts, and events. Even a nap as short as 6-minutes has been shown to improve a person’s recall of a list of words, suggesting the mere onset of sleep is enough to kick memory consolidation into motion.
  • Decision-making: Power naps support more efficient and accurate processing of information to make informed choices.
  • Problem-solving: Power naps can increase our capacity to analyze situations, identify issues, and generate effective solutions.
  • Reaction time: Power naps can yield a quicker response to stimuli, which can be particularly important in time-sensitive or dangerous situations or tasks.
  • Confidence: In one study, a 20-minute nap improved study participants' willingness to complete a task and their perception of how well they completed that task. 
  • Mood and stress: Power napping has been found to have a positive impact on mood and stress levels, possibly due to the release of serotonin during sleep. 
  • Overall health: Power napping can confer long-term health benefits. Regular napping (of any duration) has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and better overall health. 

Why Should I Power Nap?

To power nap or not power nap? As you ponder the question, consider what you want from your nap: Do you need to make up for lost sleep? Are you dragging during the afternoon and need a quick energy boost? And your needs: Are you short on time? Do you need to be alert and on-point immediately when you wake up?

  • A power nap can help you pay back sleep debt. A longer nap will pay back more, but even a 15-minute power nap can downplay midday sleepiness and sharpen logical reasoning when you’re sleep deprived, and will still help chip away at sleep debt.
  • A power nap can help you feel better, even if your sleep debt is low. Research shows even well-slept individuals can see improvements in mood, alertness, and cognitive performance. 
  • A power nap can provide an energy boost. A 10-minute nap can reduce feelings of fatigue and improve vigor.  
  • A power nap transfers benefits quickly. If you’re short on time, just a 10-minute nap can downgrade feelings of sleepiness and fatigue and improve vigor and cognitive performance. In a study that compared the outcomes of naps lasting 5, 10, 20, and 30 minutes in length, the 10-minute nap was found to be the most effective, with benefits produced immediately and lasting for as long as 155 minutes.
  • A power nap lets you hit the ground running. Compared to longer naps, power naps offer the advantage of a quicker return to daily activities and less risk of interfering with nighttime sleep. This is because power naps keep you in the lighter stages of non-REM sleep, minimizing sleep inertia.

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How Long Should a Power Nap Be?

The ideal length for a power nap hovers between 10-20 minutes (naps shorter than 10 minutes may confer some benefits, but are generally less effective than those 10-minutes and longer). This short nap duration can give us many of the perks associated with naps without the downside of sleep inertia.

We all experience sleep inertia when we first wake up in the morning — it’s what drives us to keep hitting the snooze button on our alarm clock, and the reason we may feel like we’re moving in slow-motion during our morning routine. But while sleep inertia is completely normal and natural, it can take up to 90 minutes (or more!) before we’re feeling completely ourselves. 

While everyone’s different, a good rule of thumb for healthy adults is that for a nap spanning 25 minutes or more, you should anticipate some post-nap grogginess. 

Keep in mind that the likelihood, duration, and severity of sleep inertia all increase when we’re sleep deprived, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night to minimize the odds and severity of a post-nap slump.

What if I Can’t Fall Asleep in 10-20 Minutes? 

If you’re not used to taking short naps, it might be a challenge at first to fall asleep within the 10-20 minute timeframe. Don’t fret if this is the case — like most things, napping gets easier with practice, so the more you try it, the more quickly you’ll be able to fall asleep over time (what scientists call our “sleepability skills”).

What’s the Ideal Time for a Power Nap?

The best time of day for a power nap is during the natural dip of your circadian rhythm, which occurs for many of us between 1-3 PM. The RISE app predicts the timing of your energy dip each day. 

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peak and dip times
The RISE app predicts the timing of your afternoon energy dip each day. This is the best time for a power nap.

The benefits of taking a power nap during the mid-afternoon are two-fold: it will be easier to drift off at this time of day compared to any other and it’s early enough in the day that it likely won’t interfere with our night-time sleep. 

Exactly when this natural dip in energy occurs will be different for everyone and depend on the timing of our circadian rhythm. If you have an irregular sleep schedule, the timing of your dip will also shift from day to day. Learn more about how to find your circadian rhythm here.

Your circadian rhythm or internal clock runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and dictates your sleep-wake cycle, the production of certain hormones, and body temperature and blood pressure fluctuations, amongst many other things. 

If you’re an early chronotype (also known as morning type, early bird, or lark), your circadian rhythm will skew earlier. If you’re an evening chronotype (also known as evening type or night owl) it’s the opposite. Morning types usually experience their energy dip from noon to early afternoon. Night owls, on the other hand, may only feel the lull from mid-afternoon onward.

Find out what chronotype you are and how to make the most of yours here.

Note: High sleep debt will make you feel drowsier than usual, and encourage an earlier nap time. 

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How Many Power Naps Can I Take in a Day?

The number of power naps you can take in a day depends on your individual needs, sleep patterns, and lifestyle. Generally, one power nap per day is considered sufficient for most people to recharge and avoid disrupting their circadian rhythm and interfering with nighttime sleep. However, some individuals might benefit from taking multiple short naps, especially new parents and shift workers with irregular schedules. 

Drawbacks of multiple naps:

  • Potential interference with nighttime sleep, especially if naps are taken too close to bedtime.
  • Increased sleep inertia or grogginess, particularly if naps are longer or taken during the deeper stages of sleep.
  • Time management challenges, as taking multiple naps might not be feasible in a busy schedule.

If you consistently feel the need to nap multiple times a day, it could be a sign of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Reasons why you might be experiencing excessive sleepiness include:

  • Sleep debt: Not getting enough sleep at night could be the primary reason for daytime sleepiness. Even if you’re getting enough time in bed, poor quality or inefficient sleep can make you feel tired during the day. Factors like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or an uncomfortable sleep environment can contribute to poor sleep quality. 
  • Stress or anxiety: High levels of stress or anxiety can lead to both mental and physical fatigue, making you feel the need to nap more often.
  • Nutritional deficiencies or dehydration: A lack of essential nutrients or inadequate hydration can result in low energy levels, leading to increased sleepiness.
  • Health issues: Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, anemia, or chronic fatigue syndrome, can cause excessive sleepiness.
  • Medications: Some medications can cause drowsiness as a side effect. Consult your healthcare provider if you suspect your medication is contributing to your sleepiness.

If you find that multiple naps are negatively impacting your nighttime sleep or overall well-being, it may be best to limit the number of naps and focus on improving sleep quality during the night. Consulting a healthcare professional can help determine if there is an underlying issue causing your excessive sleepiness and recommend appropriate interventions. We cover why you might be sleeping so much all of a sudden here. 

However, if you can take multiple naps without disrupting your overall sleep patterns or daily functioning, it may be an effective way to maintain energy levels throughout the day.

When Shouldn’t I Take a Power Nap?

Not everyone is an ideal power nap candidate, and there are some specific instances where we should avoid napping altogether:

1. You battle insomnia

If you have a diagnosed sleep disorder like insomnia or generally have trouble sleeping, any type of nap can interfere with your sleep schedule and make it more difficult to get healthy sleep at night. In this case, you should steel yourself against the temptation of a midday catnap in order to let sleep pressure (the natural urge to sleep that accumulates during waking hours) build up over the course of the day, which will make it easier to fall asleep at bedtime

2. You’re trying to shift your sleep schedule earlier to become a morning person

If you're a night owl trying the early bird lifestyle, either out of curiosity or necessity, you may be attempting to shift your circadian rhythm earlier. In this process, you might find that napping interferes with your ability to fall asleep at your desired bedtime. This difficulty can then make it harder to wake up when you'd like to, creating a cycle that makes shifting your sleep schedule more difficult. Learn more about how to become a morning person here.

3. You’re acclimating to a new time zone with an earlier bedtime

Similarly, if you’ve recently moved or are traveling to a new time zone and need to acclimate to an earlier bedtime, you may find it more effective to maintain a regular wake and sleep schedule, which means you’ll want to avoid naps until your circadian rhythm adjusts. We cover how to get over jet lag and how long jet lag lasts here.

4. You missed your napping window 

Taking a nap too late in the day can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at your regular bedtime, as it may reduce more sleep pressure than you can build back up before bedtime. Consequently, this can lead to difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep, resulting in sleep debt.

5. You’re sleep deprived and have time for a longer nap 

Power naps can provide a short-term boost in alertness and cognitive performance for sleep-deprived individuals and are an effective way to pay back sleep debt. However, they aren’t a long-term solution for sleep deprivation, and their benefits will be muted when you’re sleep deprived. A longer nap, or an extended nighttime sleep (or ideally both), is necessary to address high sleep debt. If you have the time for a longer nap (plus some buffer time for sleep inertia to pass), save the power nap for another time and opt instead for a longer 30-90-minute nap. Learn more about how to catch up on sleep here.

6. You need your energy boost to last longer 

The longer you snooze, the more lasting the nap benefits are. The advantages of short naps usually fade after one to three hours, while those of longer naps especially those that run a full sleep cycle (circa 90 minutes) can last up to several hours. 

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What’s the Best Way To Power Nap?

Your ideal power nap will be one where you wake up feeling better than you did before you fell asleep — i.e. restored, invigorated, and ready to tackle the remaining tasks of the day. 

Here’s how to power nap according to sleep experts: 

  • Choose the ideal time for a power nap: The best time for a power nap is typically in the early to mid-afternoon, during your body’s natural dip in energy. RISE will tell you the best time to nap. 
  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment: Find a cool, dark, and quiet space with a comfortable place to rest, and consider using a sleep mask, ear plugs, or white noise machine to block out distractions. RISE can help you run a sleep environment check and play white noise too. 
  • Use techniques to fall asleep quickly: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or soothing sounds can help you fall asleep faster during a power nap. RISE has all of these as audio guides in the app. We cover the best breathing exercises for sleep here.
  • Wake up feeling refreshed: Set an alarm for your desired nap duration. Factor in time to fall asleep too. RISE is also an alarm clock. 
  • Avoid caffeine: To maximize the benefits of your nap, avoid consuming caffeine within a few hours before your planned nap time. "Coffee naps," which involve drinking a cup of coffee immediately before a power nap, can more effectively boost your energy than a cup of coffee alone, but drinking coffee as late in the day as during your afternoon dip has the potential to negatively affect that night’s sleep. Use them strategically and sparingly. RISE can tell you when to have your last cup of coffee for the day. 
  • Find the power nap length that works for you: Experiment with different nap durations, times of day (still during your hours-long energy dip), and environments to find what works best for you. No two nappers are alike, and each person’s “perfect” power nap is going to look slightly different. Log your nap lengths and times in RISE to find what works. 
  • Be consistent: Once you find the time of day that works for you, try sticking to a consistent nap schedule. This can help your body become accustomed to the routine, making it easier to fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling refreshed. 
RISE app screenshot showing when to limit caffeine intake
The RISE app can remind you when to begin limiting caffeine to help ensure a good night’s sleep.

What are the Best Power Nap Alternatives?

If you don’t have time for a power nap or a comfortable place to get some shut-eye, there are plenty of science-backed ways you can give yourself an energy boost. These include:

  • Natural light: You’ve probably heard that bright light exposure in the morning is essential for regulating our circadian rhythms and giving us an energizing boost, but light can also help you feel more awake throughout the day, too. If possible, get outside for a break or work by a window.
  • Short mindfulness or meditation breaks: Taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness or meditation can help to relax and refresh the mind, improving mood and reducing fatigue
  • Physical activity and stretching: Engaging in brief physical activity or stretching can help increase blood flow, oxygenate the brain, and provide a quick energy boost. Even a 10-minute walk has been shown to reduce fatigue. You can combine the energy-boosting benefits of movement and light by getting outside for a work out and some fresh air. If you can’t get outside, try a few jumping jacks or simple stretches. 
  • Breathing exercises for energy and relaxation: Practicing deep breathing exercises can help to reduce stress and increase alertness by supplying the brain with more oxygen.
  • Hydration and healthy snacks for an energy boost: Drinking water and eating a nutritious snack can help to maintain energy levels and prevent fatigue caused by dehydration or low blood sugar.
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils: Inhaling certain essential oils, such as peppermint or citrus, can help to increase alertness and focus. 
  • Low sleep debt: The most effective and sustainable way to have more energy each day is to get enough nightly sleep. Keeping your sleep debt low or catching up on lost sleep will naturally reduce daytime sleepiness. It doesn’t take long to feel better either. 80% of RISE users get better sleep and feel more energy within just five days. 

Learn more ways to beat the afternoon slump as well as get energy without caffeine here.

FAQs

How long should a power nap be?

The ideal length for a power nap is between 10-20 minutes. This short nap duration can boost mood, energy, alertness, and productivity without the downside of sleep inertia or post-nap grogginess.

Can a power nap be 5 minutes?

Research shows naps shorter than 10 minutes aren’t as effective as naps 10 minutes or longer, but 5 minutes may still confer some benefits if that’s all you can manage. Power naps of 10–20 minutes offer the best chance of waking up restored and energized.

Is 30 minutes too long for a power nap?

A 30-minute nap is too long for a power nap. A 30-minute nap may result in post-nap sleep inertia, which can make it more difficult for you to get up and move again after you wake up. Cap your power nap at 20 minutes to minimize post-nap grogginess.

How many power naps per day?

The number of power naps you can take in a day depends on your individual needs, sleep patterns, and lifestyle. Generally, one power nap per day is considered sufficient for most people to recharge and avoid disrupting their circadian rhythm and interfering with nighttime sleep.

How to take a power nap without oversleeping?

To take a power nap without oversleeping, set an alarm for 10-20 minutes. Find a comfortable, dark, and quiet environment, and consider using relaxation techniques to fall asleep faster.

About Our Editorial Team

Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.

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