PSA: Here’s How to Take the Perfect Nap

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Photo: Frederic Cirou/Corbis

I've always considered napping the easiest way to be productive without really doing anything: Lie down, close eyes, make sure to wake up before there is something to do — or don't! Napping, after all, is its own activity. When you wake up, you're recharged. So you're not "wasting time," you're bettering yourself through mini bouts of sleep. Easy. However, an article in today's Wall Street Journal blew my mind: Supposedly there is a right way to nap, and science is involved. It's not just for filling time between brunch and an evening movie. Napping can actually make you more productive.

According to several studies summarized in the WSJ, naps are best optimized when based on an understanding of our natural circadian rhythms and REM cycles. Based on that, scientists (or professional nap analysts) have discovered the best time to nap is between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. while sitting up slightly so you don't fall into a deep sleep. The popular "I'm just gonna nap for 30 minutes" nap is actually the worst kind —  it interrupts the REM cycle and leaves people groggy. Sixty-minute naps are best for "memory consolidation" and the 90-minute session is ideal because you've completed a total REM cycle.

Don't have 90 minutes to nap? A study shows that a ten- to twenty-minute power nap is all you need to really recharge, and ten minutes is the sweet spot. People become "sharp right away" and the improved mental acuity lasts for about 2.5 hours.

This is great news! Fashion Week is upon us, so instead of chugging a coffee and Red Bull cocktail for breakfast, lunch, and dinner this year, short naps might be the way to stay refreshed. And you can absolutely sleep for ten minutes without being detected. For example: the beginner "in the back of the cab in between shows" move. Or open a lengthy document on your computer and pretend to read; slip into the bathroom and snooze in a stall; lean against the wall in the standing-room-only section before a show starts, or in a dark corner at a Fashion Week party. Nobody will even notice.