Naps may not be the secret to world peace, but there's not a lot else they can't do. Beyond topping off your energy tank, a brief dalliance with unconsciousness can reduce stress, spark creativity and even fire up your sex drive, says Sara Mednick, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, who's been studying the relationship between napping and physical, emotional and cognitive performance for two decades. We asked her for her best advice on how to do it right.

Eliminate Distractions

You don't have time to waste, so off with things that beep, buzz, ring, ding and otherwise have the power to prematurely rouse you.

Stretch Out

Whatever accommodations are available to you—a recliner, a spot on the rug in the conference room—make sure you aren't contorted in a way that will cause you to wake up with a stiff neck or cramped legs. "If you're not comfortable, it won't be a quality nap," says Mednick, and you'll be sore for the rest of the day.

Time It Right

"If you need a quick pick-me-up, a standard 20-minute power nap is perfect," Mednick says. But if you have the time, a 60- to 90-minute snooze might be even better. It allows you to go through an entire sleep cycle, which can increase your creativity and thinking skills. Just avoid the red zone of 30 to 50 minutes: This is enough time to enter deep sleep but not enough to cycle out of it, so you'll likely wake up dazed and confused.

Nap Before Dark

You can steal a few winks whenever the opportunity presents itself, says Mednick. Make sure you're up before twilight, though, or you'll confuse your body into thinking it's nighttime. "The later you nap, the more deep sleep you'll get, which can rob you of the deep sleep you want to get at night."

Don't Force It

"If you're one of those people who just doesn't like to nap," says Mednick, "then exercise is probably a better way for you to perk up."


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