Health

It's National Napping Day, you have permission to yawn

A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
Sleep in style with the Power Nap Head Pillow.
Photograph via Hammacher Schlemmer
A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
Sleep in style (and on your desk) with the Power Nap Head Pillow.
Photograph via Overstock.com
A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
The American Academy of Pediatrics says middle and high schools shouldn't start before 8:30 a.m., so students can get enough sleep.
/iStockphoto
A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
Will later start times at some LA-area schools help teens get more sleep?
danielfoster437/Flickr (cc by-sa)
A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
Robert Terrell/Flickr Creative Commons
A Red Panda Bear sleeps in the Panda Bea
BEAUVAL, FRANCE - JANUARY 25: Yuan Zi, a male giant panda sleeps inside his enclosure at Zoo Parc De Beauval on January 25, 2012 in Beauval, France. A pair of giant pandas named Huan Huan and Yuan Zi have been loaned to the zoo by China, where they hope the pair will reproduce and help boost the world's dwindling panda population. (Photo by Franck Prevel/Getty Images)
Franck Prevel/Getty Images


It's okay if you fall asleep before you get to the end of this story. In fact, it's encouraged. That's because today is National Napping Day, a holiday that conveniently falls one day after we've lost an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time.

Long considered a lazy person's pastime, napping has become more scientifically acceptable, even hip, as researchers tout its benefits. Here's everything you need to know about napping so you can have an informed discussion with your boss after you skip that 2:30 p.m. meeting for a little shuteye. We can't promise you won't be fired.

You're not sleeping alone

Napping is more common than you think. According to the results of a Pew study released in 2008, on a typical day 34 percent of adults in the U.S. take a nap. People over 50 and men are more likely than younger people and women to do it. The more money you make, the less likely you are to nap. Although the link between lack of napping and higher income may be correlative rather than causal, that's a powerful incentive to stay awake.

The Pew study also presents some intriguing racial disparities. Half of the black adults in the survey said they had napped in the past 24 hours, compared with just a third of whites and Hispanics. Another fun finding: There was a strong correlation between nap-taking and trouble sleeping. Whether naps were the cure for a bad night's sleep or the cause of it remains unknown.

Hack your nap

If you're a napping practitioner, your most crucial decision is how long to sleep. Although scientists tout the benefits of sleep, should you take a quick 10-15 minute catnap or do you need a longer slumber?

According to the Sleep Foundation, "A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%." But the Sleep Foundation also says, "Naps can leave people with sleep inertia, especially when they last more than 10-20 minutes." Which side are you on, Sleep Foundation?!

According to this handy Wall Street Journal infographic, a 10-20 minute power nap is "ideal for a boost in alertness and energy," and a 60-minute nap will help you remember facts. But the ideal nap is 90 minutes long; it boosts memory, creativity and your overall emotional state.

The upshot: Go short or go long, but don't go for the middle. Thirty-minute naps are likely to leave you feeling groggy and disoriented.

Don't just nap, #Naptimize

Advances in napping are happening fast, from a chair that folds up like a taco to nap pods popping up at universities and forward-thinking companies. (Full disclosure: KPCC's parent company, American Public Media, has not installed nap pods.) There's even a rolling nap truck; if only it were a regular service instead of a promotional gimmick.

Having trouble falling asleep?

Hammacher Schlemmer sells a "Power Nap Head Pillow" (for only $79.95!) that you can wear while sleeping upright or with your head on your desk. More crucially, it makes you look like a cross between a hammerhead shark and a "Star Wars" alien.

Still awake? Try reading "The Napping House" by Audrey Wood, or follow along with this video:

nap video

Pro tip for journalists

Writing stories about napping is always fun because it lets you pull from some stellar stock photography, as evidenced above.