How Long Should A Nap Last?

The short answer: however long you want.

Author by John Devore
Credit: Megan Schaller

There are a lot of opinions about how long a nap should last.

According to a recent Twitter poll, a proper nap should last between one and two hours. This poll had over 71,000 respondents so, obviously, it is definitive. But actual science has some opinions on the length of naps, too.

A study from NASA way back in 1995 found that a 26-minute nap improved alertness by 54%. The National Transportation Safety Board used these findings when recommending that air-traffic controllers be allowed to take short naps.

The National Sleep Foundation claims the ideal nap length is 90 minutes because it allows your body to complete a full REM cycle and will boost memory and creativity.

There is, also, a ten-year-old study that recommends six-minute naps. These “ultra-short sleep episodes” can benefit long-term memory.  I think I’ve taken naps like these during especially long meetings, with my eyes open.

A traditional ‘cat nap’ is usually twenty minutes, which studies show can elevate mood and sharpen skills. Historical figures like Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and John Kennedy were all fans of the 20-minute nap.

All of this is hogwash, however, because a nap should take approximately one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which is currently streaming on Netflix.

I’m not saying I’m an expert at naps because I work at an award-winning mattress company. What I’m saying is I take a lot of naps and that’s what makes me an expert at naps.

I have never seen a full episode of Grey’s Anatomy. All I know is that it is a show about beautiful doctors. I am usually fast asleep the moment any beautiful doctor starts talking and then, a little later, I wake up right as the credits roll. If I was pressed to further guess what episodes of Grey’s Anatomy are about I’d probably say “something’s up at the beautiful people hospital!”

Each episode of Grey’s Anatomy is approximately 42-minutes long. So there is my full answer to the question about the length of naps: 42-minutes. This is the correct amount of time naps should last. My opinion is about as scientific as a Twitter poll.

I usually feel refreshed after a quick 42-minute nap. Any shorter and I’m cranky. Any longer and I’m groggy. But when I wake up from a Grey’s Anatomy nap I am serene and ready to tackle the rest of my day. I think, perhaps, my subconscious benefits from the dialogue between Dr. McDreamy and, um, other Dr. McDreamy?

It is evident that the duration of a midday snooze is a real debate. But it shouldn’t be a debate. The short answer, of course, is nap however long you want to nap. But the correct answer to the question “How long should a nap last?” is 42-minutes. If you can’t sleep to noise then, by all means, don’t watch a medical drama that has been on TV for the last forty years. But if a little background noise lulls you to sleep then I suggest, yet again, streaming any random Grey’s Anatomy episode and drifting off to dreamland the moment you see a beautiful human being in hospital scrubs about to part their perfect lips to speak.



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A curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life — emotionally supported by Casper. It’s a beautiful magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen this year. The first issue includes a love letter to comfort pants, a skeptic's guide to crystals, and an adulting coloring book.