Cats are notorious sleepers, that’s a proven fact of life. And while our feline friends can sleep or rest for up to 20 hours a day, humans, unfortunately, don’t have nearly as much time. You snooze, you lose, right?
I mean how many times have you found yourself in a situation where you have to ditch your best buds because you’re literally too tired to function? Or you had to meet up in the evening with your significant other for a fun night out – only, you’ve had your lunch and you’re terribly, terribly sleepy. Sure you can get some coffee, or an energy drink, but having it late in the afternoon or in the early evening is sure going to leave you with even less sleep during the night, and from then on it’s just a vicious cycle that only a weekend hibernation can barely mend.
So why torture and deprive yourself of sleep, when what you probably really need is a simple, plain ol’ cat nap to feel fresh again in no time? Cat naps can be really helpful if you are underslept and want to feel less sleepy during the rest of the day. Look at it as a simple way to catch up on some zzzs during the workweek!
What Exactly Is a Cat Nap? What Is the Normal Amount of Time for a Cat Nap?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple – a cat nap is basically a power nap. It usually means you get to sleep for a short time, although there isn’t a strict medical limit as to how long it should last. Of course, these naps are significantly shorter than regular sleep – in fact, power naps usually last from 10 to 30 minutes, but sometimes even 60 or 90 minutes.
The whole idea of this kind of nap isn’t to put you into a deep sleep and get you ready for the night. It’s just the opposite – people taking a cat nap usually wake up before the deep sleep cycle starts to take over. The power nap’s purpose is to boost your energy levels and help you spend the rest of the day rejuvenated and refreshed.
What Are the Benefits of a Cat Nap?
Cat naps can have great benefits for both our bodies and our minds.
Research shows that cat naps can be very beneficial for brain health – if you try catnapping even once, you’ll immediately notice increased alertness, vigor, a decrease in fatigue, and overall better cognitive and memory performance.
If you notice that you’ve been grumpier than usual lately – well, blame it on your lack of sleep. As it turns out, power naps can also positively affect your mood and make you feel more relaxed. So, next time, instead of lashing out at the first person that comes by, try dozing off for half an hour. It’ll make a world of difference.
Reverses Sleep Deprivation Damage
Another great thing that you’ll notice if you become a serial catnapper is the reverse of damage caused by sleep deprivation. That’s right – cat naps can help your immune system recover, and they can reduce the levels of stress hormones, which are also caused by chronic sleep deprivation.
Helps With Information Retain and Boosts Creativity
If you’re a student, you can also benefit from cat naps and get better quality studying for exams. How come? Well, power naps can help you retain information more successfully, and they also purge your brain from any unnecessary or redundant data. By making your brain less tired and more focused on the information you care about, power naps also make you more creative and less stressed about your impending obligations.
Improves Sex Life
Short naps can also benefit your sex life. This is because when you’re sleep-deprived, your body favors the production of stress hormones over ones like testosterone or estrogen. And when it comes to hormones, every shift matters, because it can ultimately cause erectile dysfunction, decrease your libido (sex drive), and negatively affect your fertility levels.
Improves Athletic Function
If you’re into sports and you’re watching your performance, then you also might benefit from short power naps. According to research, 20-minute naps can help boost your athletic performance as well as the ability to learn a new skill.
Heck, even napping on the job is encouraged by one of the most successful companies out there. Google has sci-fi sleeping pods with a handful of relaxing gizmos that are supposed to help their employees feel refreshed and productive in the middle of their work hours. The headquarters of Nike in Portland also provide a space, usually quiet rooms, where their workers can take a nap or meditate. I mean, even Ben & Jerry’s have been including power nap rooms at their headquarters for more than 10 years.
Are There Any Downsides to Being a Professional Catnapper?
Catnappers of the world don’t need to worry – the downsides of power naps are far too few.
One should be careful with their length, however. A cat nap can potentially become a problem only when it’s longer than 90 minutes. Research shows that cat naps longer than this time can cause problems with cognition, and also with the “ability to think and form memories”. However, the study in question was done mostly in older adults (aged 65 and over) so the results can be attributed to a combination of factors.
Also, try not to take a nap later in the evening because it might interfere with your regular sleep schedule. This is especially important if you’re battling insomnia.
When opting for a nap, take into account the fact that you might experience a so-called “sleep inertia”, which is a feeling of sleepiness or grogginess from taking a tad-longer power nap.
How Can You Best Utilize Your Nap Time?
There isn’t one, single rule when it comes to healthy adults and nap times, in general. However, you can take some things into account and get the best out of your naps, improve your sleep habits, and your sleep schedule.
Take Short Naps
That’s right. As we’ve mentioned earlier, short naps are better than long naps, no doubt about it. Long naps can make you groggy, decrease cognitive function, and also mess with your sleep schedule.
Try to take power naps that last somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes, tops. If you generally have trouble waking up, then set an alarm. But do try to avoid long naps because then you risk entering the deep sleep phase and waking up is hard from then onwards, fellas. Once you cross this phase, feelings of grogginess won’t be far behind.
Pick a Regular Time for Napping
Your circadian rhythm will thank you for this. Picking a nap time that is approximately at the same time every day will help you keep your sleep habits in check and regulate your natural circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock for sleeping and waking.
That way, you’ll feel more rested and more energetic even as soon as you wake up in the morning.
If Possible, Try to Have a Nap in the Early Afternoon
This, of course, depends on when you usually go to bed. However, if you’re among the majority of working people out there, it’s a good idea to avoid naps several hours before bedtime.
So, if you can, try to have a nap somewhere in the early afternoon or around 2-3 pm. Or you could also do it right after work – if you don’t have the conditions to do it at your workplace.
Sleep, even when it’s only a short nap, still requires a peaceful environment devoid of stressful or loud stimuli, and also devoid of temperature variations.
When taking a nap, draw the curtains down and don’t let too much light in. Also, try to keep the room cooler (sleeping is better in a colder environment). If you need a specific sound to fall asleep, use whatever works for you like sounds from falling rain or ocean waves, and the like. Alternatively, you can use a white noise app with soothing sounds that can also block any potential disrupting noise from the outside.
And, very importantly, don’t forget to turn off your phone! Your precious nap time is yours only, don’t break it up with unnecessary notifications. Of course, make sure to set an alarm if you need one in order to wake up.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Well, as it turns out, naps can also keep the doctor away. The bottom line is that cat naps are good for you. Sure, there are a couple of things to keep in mind – try to stick to shorter sleeping spells, don’t overdo it, have a regular nap time, and make sure you are getting enough hours of sleep.
And when the grind of everyday life catches up with you, it still doesn’t mean you have to snooze or lose. With cat naps, you can both have your cake and eat it, too!