Illustration: George Greaves

The Elemental Guide to Napping

Why Napping Is Good for You, According to Science

Emerging evidence suggests a daytime snooze has powerful health benefits

Maya Kroth
Published in
7 min readAug 19, 2019

The Elemental Guide to Napping is a three-part special report. Read here about how to take the perfect nap and how people are napping as a form of resistance.

AsAs long as there’s been civilization, there’s been disagreement about the value of a nap. Plato viewed sleep as anti-social, writing that “a sleeper is of no more use than one who is dead.” Rabbis debated the topic in the Talmud, concluding that napping should be avoided most of the time. “It is forbidden for a man to sleep by day more than the sleep of a horse,” commentators wrote. “And what is the sleep of a horse? Sixty respirations,” or about half an hour. By the Middle Ages, some physicians worried that midday naps caused fevers, headaches, dropsy (edema), and gout, especially if taken after a heavy meal.

Science has come a long way since then, but sleep — and napping in particular — is still surprisingly understudied. However, the evidence that is available points to napping as something of a magic pill that not only makes you more alert but also protects your heart, lowers your blood pressure, improves your memory, and enhances creativity. As leading sleep researcher Sara Mednick details in her book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life, napping also mitigates some of the most harmful impacts of sleep deprivation — suggesting that if we all napped on the daily, our roads would be safer, our bank accounts fatter, our sex lives better, and the bags under our eyes a little less noticeable.

Here are some of the most interesting findings from nap science.

Napping is biological

“All humans, irrespective of culture or geographical location, have a genetically hardwired dip in alertness that occurs in the midafternoon hours,” writes UC Berkeley neuroscience professor Matthew Walker in his 2017 bestseller, Why We Sleep.

Today, most people in the developed world sleep monophasically — that is, in one long stretch of nighttime sleep. But is that what nature intended? To investigate that question, anthropologists have observed



Maya Kroth

Itinerant journo, ex @fulbrightprgrm Spain & @sipiapa_oficial in Mex, interested in siesta, travel, food, journalism, bicycles & bourbon.