How Long to Take a Nap Before an Athletic Event?

Demanding training and game schedules can take a toll on the body, hindering speed, reaction time and endurance during competition. Whether or not you feel tired, taking an afternoon siesta can help you feel refreshed and energized for your next competition. You may need to experiment with an ideal nap time, but 20 minutes is about right.

Naps and Performance

According to sports medicine doctor and fitness guru, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, naps probably impact athletic performance, although there isn't substantial data available to prove it. Mirkin suggests a pre-game 20-minute nap may improve performance and alertness. Professional athletes, such as those in the NBA, regularly take afternoon naps to prepare for games. Cheri Mah, a sleep researcher at Stanford University, suggests most athletes understand the importance of physical training and nutrition, but underestimate the benefits of adequate sleep on performance and recovery.

Optimal Duration

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a short nap of about 20 minutes can improve alertness without causing grogginess 2. Sleeping longer than 20 minutes can cause sleep inertia, a sense of lethargy and disorientation than can last for up to 30 minutes after waking. If you do sleep longer than 20 minutes, allow yourself at least 30 minutes to become fully alert before engaging in competition.