Looking to de-stress, relax, and recharge? Try napping.

by Kaiser Permanente |
Person sleeping on a bed

Sleep is essential for our overall health. It gives our mind and body time to relax and recharge. Studies show that getting 7 to 8 hours of regular nighttime sleep is best for maintaining good health.1 But what happens when you don’t get a good night’s sleep and find yourself tired during the day?

Enter the nap. Naps may have health benefits, like reducing stress and improving memory. One study showed that daytime napping following the COVID-19 pandemic actually helped relieve stress and stabilize sleep patterns.2 Why not see if some afternoon shut-eye would be right for you?

Dennis Hwang, MD, medical director at Kaiser Permanente’s Sleep Center in San Bernardino County, California, shares tips on when to try napping or other relaxation techniques.

Tips on napping

Before drifting off to dreamland, there are a few important things to consider:

  • Know if napping is right for you "Every person is different. If someone finds that the occasional nap helps them feel better, then napping might work for that person," explains Dr. Hwang. "But if someone has a sleep disorder like insomnia, I advise they try to avoid naps so they can sleep better at night."
  • Time it correctly If you’re going to nap, it’s a good idea to plan it for halfway through your day. If you wake up at 6 a.m. and plan to go to bed at 10 p.m., your halfway point is 2 p.m. Napping any later in the day could make it harder to fall asleep at night. "Because of our circadian rhythms, our brain naturally has a dip in energy and performance around 2 to 3 p.m.," says Dr. Hwang. "So, this is a good time for a short nap, if you need one." If this time falls during your regular work hours, you may want to plan your breaks so it makes sense for your schedule.
  • Create a calm space Just as you might prepare for better sleep at night, you can try the same habits for a midday nap. A cooler room can help you fall asleep. Listening to soothing music can help with relaxation. There are many calming techniques and guided activities you can try for better sleep.
  • Set an alarm for a short period — How long you snooze makes a difference in how you feel when you wake up. "To avoid entering a deep sleep, set an alarm for 20 minutes. However, up to 30 minutes is fine," says Dr. Hwang.

From cultural traditions to the coffee nap

People have always found ways to sneak a little more sleep into their day. The Spanish siesta is a midafternoon nap to escape the heat of the day. The Japanese inemuri is a quick nap inserted in a busy schedule.

"Taking midafternoon breaks or naps is common in many cultures — including Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Asian cultures," explains Dr. Hwang. "But it also depends on your day-to-day life. Cultural traditions, individual sleep habits, or work schedules can vary person to person."

Looking to boost your energy? Try catching some daytime z’s with a "coffee nap" or "nappuccino." You start by drinking a caffeinated drink like coffee, then take a 20-minute nap. The caffeine will take effect in about 20 to 30 minutes, so when you wake up, you'll have extra energy.3

According to Dr. Hwang, a coffee nap could make sense for shift workers who need an extra burst of energy. But he warns that the caffeine can last in your system for up to 12 hours. Be careful not to let too much coffee disrupt your regular sleep schedule.

Other relaxation techniques

A nap may not always be possible during your workday. Fortunately, just taking a mental break can have some benefits.

Dr. Hwang says relaxation techniques like mindfulness and meditation can also help to calm your mind. "There are benefits to all relaxation practices, you just need to find what works for you."

Try finding a quiet place to put on headphones and listen to calming music. You could also explore mental health resources like the Calm app – perfect for a quick, restful break.

From self-care apps to guided meditations, you have many options to help relieve stress, improve sleep, foster mindfulness, and more.

1Eric Suni, "How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?" SleepFoundation.org, September 6, 2023.

2Wenjuan Dai et al., "Maintaining Normal Sleep Patterns, Lifestyles and Emotion During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Stabilizing Effect of Daytime Napping," Journal of Sleep Research, January 8, 2021.

3Christine Pydych, “Coffee Nap,” SleepFoundation.org, September 1, 2023.