Power naps are those short, revitalizing rest periods we take throughout the day to get our energy back up when we need it most. They're short, sweet, and certainly feel effective whether you're a sleep-deprived college student or working long hours at your job. But it's natural to wonder whether these short naps can actually help you catch up on sleep, or if they're setting you back even further.
"Short naps or power naps definitely do work," said Rafael Pelayo, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center For Sleep Sciences and Medicine. Though the sweet spot for naps seems to be between 30 and 40 minutes, he told POPSUGAR, if you have time in your schedule for a short nap when you need one, it can give you a quick bump of energy. And for people who struggle with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that leads to chronic drowsiness during the daytime, Dr. Pelayo said that short, scheduled naps can be an effective treatment.
You should pay attention, though, to what happens during your short five- to 10-minute naps. Typically, Dr. Pelayo explained, it takes our bodies about 90 minutes to enter REM sleep, which is the period in which you'll experience dreams. If you're not getting enough sleep at night, that REM period is typically the part you're cutting off. Your body responds by slipping directly into REM as soon as you get a chance to nap.
In practice, this means that if you're remembering dreams that you have during short 10- to 20-minute naps, "then really your body's screaming at you that you're not getting enough sleep," Dr. Pelayo said. Short power naps feel good and are good for you, helping you to catch up on sleep, but if you're relying on them regularly and experiencing deep sleep and intense dreams during that rest period, it's worth reevaluating your sleep schedule and trying to get more of your shut-eye at night.