Cat Naps: What They Are & Why You Should Take One

Written by Laura Brooks

 

The science is in: cat naps aren’t just for cranky toddlers. Not yet a cat-nap-lover? This might change your mind…

If you work yourself ragged to keep up with the pressures of work, personal, and social life, you’re in good company. There hardly seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish everything, let alone “wasting” even more time with your eyes closed. But what if the secret to staying healthy and happy was to simply stop and rest? 

A new wave of self-care has embedded itself in our culture, and with it overwhelming scientific evidence that taking a cat nap might be the antidote to all of your woes (or at least a few of them). 

Here we’re discussing cat naps; what they are, how to optimize them, and why you should be taking them regularly. 

Where Did the Term “Cat Nap” Come From?

The term “cat nap” has been used since as early as the 1800s, although it’s unclear who first coined this apt phrase. 

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time around a cat, the name is obvious. Cats sleep anywhere from 12-18 hours a day, with their most active times being dawn and dusk, which makes them crepuscular creatures (not nocturnal, as many people believe). 

Like Leonardo da Vinci, cats have polyphasic sleep patterns, meaning that instead of sleeping in one long stretch, they sleep in small increments, usually averaging around 15-30 minutes. Perhaps “Leonardo da Vinci Naps” was too much of a mouthful to really catch on.  

During these naps, cats spend most of their time in light sleep. They can enter deep sleep during longer naps, but this only lasts for about 5 minutes before returning to a light sleep again (much like how humans move through sleep cycles). This is one of the reasons that cats can go from sleeping to pouncing in the blink of an eye. Experts say this frequent recharging through short naps provides cats with their trademark energy, focus and agility. 

Why Cat Naps Are So Important

What do Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, and Uber have in common? They are all on Team Cat Nap. 

These titans of industry know a thing or two about success, including the invaluable nature of well-rested employees. Instead of fostering fear of getting caught ‘sleeping on the job,’ these companies encourage cat napping, and even provide designated areas to do so. 

Research shows that getting adequate sleep positively affects your personal and professional life. According to Elizabeth Scott, PhD, taking an afternoon nap “means more patience, less stress, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency, and better health.” It’s safe to say we’re very on board the cat nap train. 

People tend to take cat naps for a variety of different reasons. While some people use napping to forgo nighttime sleep altogether, napping in the classic sense supplements the sleep that you may have lost overnight. According to the CDC, “Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.” 

A reported 50-70 million Americans suffer due to lack of adequate sleep. In addition to issues with mood and mental function, insufficient sleep has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, immunodeficiency, hormonal abnormalities, pain, and decreased overall life expectancy

NASA wants their astronauts to get at least 8 hours of sleep, but if we find that difficult to accomplish down here, imagine how much harder it becomes when you’re in space. So to combat the negative effects that they surely don’t want their astronauts to deal with while hurtling through space, some of the smartest men in the US suggest: NAPS. Better rest = better functioning…it isn’t rocket science! 

Each person’s sleep needs are unique, the goal is to figure out what works best for you. Do you have to take a cat nap to be healthy? No. Some people can function perfectly well with only their natural energy and regular sleeping hours. If that’s you, give yourself a pat on the back. For the rest of us, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get the most out of your next midday snooze. 

How to Cat Nap Like a Nap Ninja

Timing is Everything

While a nice cat nap can help energize you and give you that little boost needed to get through the three-o’clock fog, a wrongly timed cat nap can throw off your circadian rhythm and make nighttime sleep even more difficult. 

The best time of day to take a nap is generally sometime in the afternoon, around 7 hours after waking up. You may naturally experience that after-lunch-slump, which is the perfect time to catch a few zzz’s. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the best time to take your well deserved cat nap is before 2:00 pm. This timing enables you to build up enough sleep pressure, the internal drive or need to sleep, before bed.

Timing the length of your cat nap is also important. A cat nap is generally considered less than 40 minutes — longer than this brings you into a deeper sleep. This isn’t so much a problem, as something to consider. Waking up from a deeper nap may leave you with a feeling of disorientation of grogginess, known as sleep inertia. 

One way around this is to nap like a ninja. 

Take a Power Cat NAP

NAPJITSU NAP helps you transform your cat nap into a power cat nap. Immediately after taking NAP, this natural sleep aid gets to work, pulling you gently into a light sleep. In about 20 minutes, the caffeine capsules dissolve, releasing all-natural caffeine & nootropics into your body. Over the next 20 minutes of your cat nap, the caffeine and nootropics kick in to help you wake up feeling energized and well-rested. 

This study further proved the effectiveness of a cat nap in combination with caffeine, when studying the performance of “sleepy drivers.” The verdict: “This [mid afternoon peak of driving incidents] significantly reduced by caffeine and eliminated by the combined treatment, which reduced incidents to 9% of placebo levels versus 34% of placebo levels for caffeine alone.” 

Set the Mood

Lastly, set the right scene for your epic cat nap. Think hibernating for the winter, but make it much shorter. Try to find a cool, quiet, dark, place. According to the Sleep Foundation, the best temperature for a nap is about 65 degrees F, but experts say to find what makes you most comfortable in the range from 60-70 degrees.

Here are some additional ways to take the ultimate power nap:

  • If you're planning on taking a nap, avoid the blue light of your phone prior to snoozing.
  • Make sure your room is dark and quiet and comfortable.
  • Do a body scan and try to focus on relaxing your whole body, from head to toe.
  • Calm your mind by taking deep breaths and focusing on your breathing, rather than your to-do list.
  • Let's talk about breathing. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, then out for 8 counts (it's science). This is known as 4-7-8 and is super helpful for falling asleep
  • Tune into NAPJITSU's Spotify channel for soothing zen flutes to gently lull you into your cat nap.

Imagine all of the other ways you could (and possibly do) spend 30 minutes that don’t improve your health or wellbeing. Napping is time well spent in the short term, and possibly even an investment for your future. 

So the next time you’re faced with the quandary “To sleep or not to sleep,” go ahead and take that cat nap… you can thank us later. 

Try it for yourself