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This Is the Perfect Length of Time to Nap, Says Clinical Psychologist—It Won't Mess Up Your Sleep Schedule

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Believe or not, there is a right and wrong way to nap — especially if you're trying to avoid messing up your sleep schedule.

Most U.S. adults nap for about an hour on average, according to a survey done by SleepFoundation.org. That's simply too long, says Shelby Harris, licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine. Harris is also the director of sleep health at Sleepopolis.

"If you take an hour-long nap, sometimes you end up waking up feeling more groggy from it because you're getting into deeper stages of sleep," Harris tells CNBC Make It.

How long should a nap be?

So, how long should a nap be, exactly? If you're aiming to feel more energized after napping, the sweet spot is from 20 minutes to a half hour, Harris says.

Right before a nap, she recommends setting a timer for 30 minutes, which gives you five to 10 minutes to fall asleep and about 20 minutes to rest.

Consider the time of day, which is extremely important to avoid affecting your sleep later in the evening, she adds. "You want to do it at least eight to nine hours before you go to bed at night," says Harris. "Usually for the majority of people, by 2 p.m. at the latest."

3 benefits of napping in the afternoon

Napping for a brief period of time, especially in the afternoon, can be beneficial for you.

In fact, power naps can:

  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve mood
  • Boost productivity and concentration

Keep in mind that naps shouldn't be used as a substitute for sleep at night.

"It's a nice benefit and addition to a good night's sleep," says Harris. "[But] you're not getting the same sort of stages of sleep and the same benefits" as sleeping at bedtime.

If you have insomnia, Harris encourages you to nap on comfortable surfaces like your couch, instead of in your bed, to avoid disturbing your sleep later on. If you don't have insomnia, napping in your bed is totally fine, she adds.

Additionally, if naps seem to cut into your sleep time in the evenings, consider removing naps from your routine.

"A nap, when we use them appropriately, [should be] kind of like a cup of coffee," Harris says. "A little bit of an energy shot in the middle of the day."

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