How to take the perfect nap, according to a renowned sleep researcher

By Elaine Lipworth | Aug 13 2019

If you've visited (or live in) Europe, you will be well acquainted with the concept of the nap. In most of Europe and in Asian countries, particularly China, a restorative afternoon rest is part of daily life, says Sara Mednick, PhD, an associate professor in the department of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of "Take a Nap! Change Your Life." In America, daytime snoozing is still often viewed as lazy — a guilt-inducing indulgence. But the latest scientific research shows even a short early afternoon snooze can lead to better health, performance, and general well-being.

Perspectives on napping are changing. Companies such as Google and NASA have installed nap rooms or pods for their employees, while US colleges, including the University of Michigan, have also set up designated rooms for napping.

"It's great to take a short nap to recoup lost sleep and help to make up for a night of poor rest," says Thrive Global's Sleep Editor-at-Large, Shelly Ibach, President & CEO of Sleep Number. "The key is to nap by early afternoon so it doesn't disrupt your nighttime sleep," she adds.

Mednick agrees, but adds that longer early afternoon naps can be beneficial too. As a top expert on napping, she gets the "what time should I nap" question regularly — as well as a slew of others. Here, Mednick answers the most common questions she hears, so you can sort out what type of nap (if any) is best for you.