An afternoon nap is as good as a caffeine boost, claims sleep expert

The benefits of having a nap during the day are similar to those experienced after consuming caffeine, according to a sleep expert.  

By having a snooze instead of a coffee or tea the side effects of dependence from a stimulant, including disrupted sleep at night time, can avoided, according to Daily Mail.

That's according to Dr Nicole Lovato, postdoctoral research fellow.

Her research also found that those who regularly nap report feeling more alert after a brief nap in the afternoon when compared to those who only nap occasionally.

She points out another research group found that motor learning, which is where brain pathways change in response to learning a new skill, was significantly greater following a brief afternoon nap for regular nappers when compared to non-nappers. 

 Napping is relatively common. In fact, about 50 per cent of us report taking a nap at least once per week, according to studies carried out by Dr Lovato and her colleagues.

Below she explains the perks on napping and how long 40 winks should be.

How long should a nap be? 

'Naps are not only beneficial because they make us feel less sleepy and more alert, but because they improve our cognitive functioning, reaction times, short-term memory and even our mood,' said Dr Lovato.

Generally speaking, the longer a nap is, the longer you will feel rejuvenated after waking, she says. But of course the amount of time you spend napping really depends on the time you have available, how you want the nap to work for you, and your plans for the coming night. 

Long naps of one to two hours during the afternoon will mean you are less sleepy –and require less sleep – that night. This could mean it will take longer than usual to fall asleep.

If you are planning to stay up later than usual, or if taking a little longer to fall asleep at bedtime is not bothersome, time your nap for about 1.5 hours, Dr Lovato recommends.

'This is the length of a normal sleep cycle. You will experience deep sleep for about an hour or so followed by light sleep for the last half an hour.

'Waking up during light sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and alert. However, waking during deep sleep will not. If you sleep too long and miss the light sleep at the end of a nap, chances are you will wake up feeling sluggish and drowsy. 

'If you do experience feeling drowsy after a nap, don't worry – this feeling is temporary and will go away after a while.'

She says that another option is to have a brief 'power' nap of 10-15 minutes – which can significantly improve alertness, cognitive performance and mood almost immediately after waking. The benefits typically last for a few hours.

'Power naps are great because you won't experience any sluggish or drowsy feelings after waking,' said Dr Lovato.

'This is because you do not enter any deep sleep during this brief time.

Research suggests, a brief, early-to-mid-afternoon nap provides the greatest rejuvenation when compared to naps at any other time of the day. 

However, if you're struggling to stay awake, a brief nap taken at any time can be help keep you alert.