A recent meta-analysis by Souabni et al. (2021) highlighted that napping proved both effective to physical and cognitive performance. Of the 18 studies included within their meta-analysis the authors showed that diurnal napping (naps during the day) had an overall positive effect on short term memory, reaction time and attention. Coupled with this, when looking at sport specific skill in particular, napping has been shown to have a positive effect various facets of performance such as repeated sprint ability and endurance.
According to Fry (2022) and Risher (2020) there are guidelines in place to ensure naps are effective. The guidelines suggest that:
• 5-minute naps are too short to be effective
• Naps longer than 30 minutes can result in deep sleep
• Naps ranging from 10-20 minutes are considered the ideal length
• Time your nap between 1-3pm
Sticking to the above guidelines can help us minimize that “groggy” feeling which is often reported on waking up from a nap and give you the best performance gain from napping. If you struggle with sleep loss, such as those on shift work or with young families you may be best served with a slightly longer nap of up to 90 minutes. Another area of interest in napping effectively is that of the “caffeine nap”, essentially this involves ingesting caffeine in the 15 minutes before a short nap. This method has been shown to decrease subjective sleepiness post nap, improve attention and reduce subjective fatigue over simply caffeine or napping alone (Reyner &Horne 1997; Centofanti et al., 2020) so it is definitely one method worth considering!
Creating the right environment
According to Fry (2022) and Pacheco (2021) there are several steps to create an effective napping environment. These steps include:
• Find a dark room/area to simulate your natural sleeping environment
• Try to find a quiet space to help prevent disturbance
• The ideal room temperature for napping is 65 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18.3 degrees Celsius)
The Mayo Clinic (2020) has alluded to naps possibly having drawbacks in sleep inertia (that groggy period after you wake from sleep) and night-time sleeping routine. To combat this, it is advisable to stick to the above guidelines and ensure naps are within an effective time window which does not impact your main night-time sleeping schedule.
Tying it up
While, unfortunately, we can’t all nap in the middle of the day it is definitely a worthwhile intervention for those who can! If, for example, you had the time on the weekend after a long ride a nap could be a very well-placed recovery tool. For shift workers and those with young families this type of intervention could also prove hugely beneficial.