The Japanese do it. Filipinos do it. Italians do it every afternoon. A well-regulated nap is a far better way to recharge your brain than sugar or coffee, and has fantastic benefits for your health. But the secret to getting it right is all in the timing.
Generally speaking, the best time to nap is around the middle of the day, between 12-3pm, so as not to disrupt night time sleep. This, combined with the way that the afternoon heat can stifle productivity, is why many cultures opt for a post-lunch siesta.
During sleep, our brain moves through a number of stages and cycles, and the point at which we wake up impacts dramatically on our cognitive state. This means that it’s worth adapting your snooze to the tasks that lie ahead.
A brief sleep of 15-20 minutes will help you regain some alertness and can refresh your motor skills, so if you need to look lively or do something fiddly, like playing an instrument, this is the nap for you.
Be warned: napping for more than 30 minutes can make you groggy. But it does have the benefit of sending you into “slow-wave” sleep, which can help to improve your memory and sharpen your decision-making skills. So, if you need to memorise or recall a lot of information, this type of nap could be a good call.
There’s a reason people advise you to “sleep on it” when faced with a complex problem you can’t get to grips with: in the morning, after a good night’s sleep, solutions often seem miraculously clear. For the brain to go into this relaxed state where it can begin to make new connections, you’ll need to go into a deep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which takes at least 60-90 minutes to reach. When you wake, you might just find yourself better equipped to come up with creative ways to solve your problem.