What constitutes a “good” nap?
Two things: the right length and the right time of day.
Experts suggest that the best time to nap is around 2 or 3 p.m. This timing is built into your body’s biological clock: Most people are naturally sleepiest between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and then again between midnight and 7 a.m.
The right length depends on what you need. If you want to feel more alert, a “power nap” as short as 10 minutes could help. To help make new motor skills stick, a nap of at least 30 minutes may help. Ditto longer naps to help retain factual information and cause-and-effect relationships. But keep in mind that naps shouldn’t be longer than one hour — you don’t want to wake up feeling groggy.
Why the differences? Deeper, slow-wave activity sleep (sometimes called Stage 2 sleep) is needed for committing new skills or knowledge to long-term memory.
Can napping be “bad”? Sometimes. Ever feel groggy and disoriented after a nap? That’s a condition called “sleep inertia” that can affect some negatively. And if you nap too late in the day, it can affect your regular sleeping period. That’s why it’s recommended that you take your naps before 3 p.m.
Can naps help with headaches?
Although more studies are needed, a small study has shown promise for sleep being a combatant against headache pain. Out of 32 participants with persistent tension-type headaches, 81 percent said going to sleep was their most effective strategy for getting rid of a headache. 3 Other studies have noted that sleep is a common migraine relief tactic for some — in fact, in a study of 75 migraineurs, nearly 90 percent reported trying to sleep as a way of relieving their migraine pain. 4
To learn more about sleep and headaches, check out other sleep coverage on Excedrin.com.