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What’s the difference between napping and sleeping?

Getting 6 to 8 hours of undisrupted quality sleep is essential for overall well-being. Besides a good night’s sleep, a nap sleep is equally important as it has numerous advantages. A quick nap can help you perform better, be more alert, and feel better. The key to napping is to take short naps of 10 to 20 minutes so you don't fall too far into the sleep cycle, which can leave you feeling groggy and tired. How to differentiate between sleep and nap? Read on to understand.


Apart from getting eight hours of sleep every night, some people like to take short naps during the day to remain fresh and active. So what is the difference between nap and sleep, and why do so many of us enjoy that short afternoon siesta?

The key difference between nap and sleep is the timing.

Naps are short and meant to give you a bit of rest, while sleep lasts for several hours and is meant to reset your body and mind. While naps are best enjoyed during the day (especially in the afternoons), sleep is always enjoyed best during the night time. Both activities offer your body different benefits, so let’s go over the main differences between sleeping and napping.


Simply put, a nap is a short amount of sleep that’s generally experienced during the day. There are different types of naps you can enjoy, such as:


If you’ve pulled an all-nighter, a recovery nap helps you catch up on all your lost sleep.


If you’re anticipating an all-nighter, you can prepare for the sleep loss by taking a prophylactic nap in advance.


Appetitive naps are taken for the enjoyment of napping. Often considered a respite, this kind of nap can help you feel more rested and alert.


This type of nap occurs on the days you feel totally under the weather. Extra rest is essential for your body when you’re sick because your body is dedicating all its energy to your immune system.


This type of nap sleep lasts between 10 and 20 minutes, and is essentially a form of quick rest for your brain.

A nap sleep is not entirely bad. Taking naps during the day has been associated with enhancing your ability to remember freshly-learned information – this phenomenon is known as memory encoding and consolidation (1).

Naps help you feel more awake and alert during the day, which leads to enhanced cognitive performance (2).

They also reduce your stress and improve your overall mood (3).


Sleep is an extended state of rest, wherein the body is physically inactive but the brain and internal organs are working hard to prepare you for the next day.

There are four stages of sleep that occur throughout the night in repeated cycles, but they can be broadly classified into two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

Stage 1: Lasts for about 10 minutes per sleep cycle. Consists of an NREM sleep stage where your body transitions from wakefulness to sleep.

Stage 2: Lasts about 20 minutes. This is an NREM phase, during which your body temperature drops in preparation for deep sleep. During this time, your brain produces brain waves called sleep spindles, a feature of memory consolidation (4).

Stage 3: Also known as delta sleep, the third NREM stage sees you progressing into your deepest sleep. Your muscles relax, your heartbeat slows down, and your body undergoes physical reparation. (5)

Stage 4: Begins 90 minutes after you fall asleep. This final stage is known as REM sleep. It is characterised by low volume and mixed frequency brain wave activity (6). You usually dream in this stage and your body is physically immobilised, ensuring that you don’t act out your dreams.


While sleeping and napping do overlap, they should be treated as two different processes. There is a world of a difference between a nap and sleep, the most important one being duration. While we all require a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night, a nap is not essential for everyone and should be either 20 or 90 minutes long (7).

Because of the difference in duration, another key difference in the napping vs sleeping debate is the number of sleep cycles you experience. The best nap length for an adult is either 20 or 90 minutes long, wherein you either experience only the first two stages of sleep or you complete one full sleep cycle.

If you want a quick refresh, shorter 20-minute power naps are ideal. It is better to take 90-minute naps during the day if you need to take a recovery or prophylactic nap. Avoid napping for more than 90 minutes, as this can disrupt your night sleep cycle.

However, several people find it difficult to fall asleep, or are unable to stay asleep. If you suffer from sleep issues, you can fix your snooze cycle with the help of melatonin products. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that naturally occurs in your body. Setu has a wide range of melatonin products to help you fix your sleep cycle.

For people who struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, Setu’s Sleep: Sustain is the perfect solution. Containing 5 mg of immediate-release (IR) melatonin and 5 mg of sustained-release (SR) melatonin, these capsules help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep all night. While the IR melatonin kicks in immediately to help you fall asleep, the SR melatonin kicks in a few hours later, ensuring that you stay asleep all night.

If you need help relaxing before sleeping, Setu’s Sleep: Restore Magic Mints are your best bet. These refreshing mints contain melatonin, which helps you develop and sustain a healthy sleep cycle. The minty capsules also contain Jatamansi extract, a plant-based extract that has a relaxing effect on your body.

What are the benefits of napping?

It has been scientifically proven that napping is highly beneficial to boost overall health. The several benefits that a nap sleep can provide are

Improves focus and memory

The fact that a nap sleep can improve learning abilities is scientifically-backed. Napping helps you to learn and retain information, apart from improving your focus and memory. Napping makes you a quick learner as the ability to perceive new information enhances immediately after a nap. Studies have also shown that the benefits of napping begin from a very early age. The ability of word learning is shown to improve in kids that nap sleep.

Enhances brain function

Several studies have found that taking 10 to 30-minute naps during the day can improve performance and make you more productive at work. Naps have been shown to help cognitive performance, response time, and attention.

Controls blood pressure levels

Small changes in lifestyle, like reducing salt and alcohol consumption and indulging in physical activities, are known to manage blood pressure levels. Studies have shown that you will have similar benefits concerning blood pressure levels with a nap sleep. A midday nap, according to new research, can significantly lower blood pressure.

The study discovered that naps reduced blood pressure by 5 mm Hg on average. This is similar to taking a low-dose blood pressure medication, which typically reduces blood pressure by 5 to 7 mm Hg.

A 2 mm Hg drop in blood pressure can reduce your risk of a heart attack by up to 10%.

Enhances mood

The best way to overcome the afternoon slump is to take short naps. Short naps increase energy levels and help you feel better. They also make you more optimistic and provide a higher tolerance for frustration. If, for any reason, you are deprived of a good night’s sleep, you can regain the energy with a short nap. Your irritability and fatigue will vanish.

What should be the nap duration? Is it different for adults and kids?

The ideal nap sleep duration is 10 to 20 minutes. This can make you feel refreshed and alert. You will tend to feel sluggish, groggy, and tired if you stretch your nap beyond 30 minutes. But if you have been deprived of good sleep the previous night and have the time to spare, then napping for at least 90 minutes is recommended to complete the sleep cycle.

However, the sleep requirements of adults and children differ, and it keeps changing throughout their lifetime. Understanding how much nap sleep is required depends on how sleep-deprived you are. For children, nap time keeps varying with age.


Nap duration

0 to 6 months

2 or 3 daytime naps of 30 minutes to 2 hours each

6 to 12 months

2 naps a day of 20 minutes to a few hours

1 to 3 years

1 midday nap of 1 to 3 hours

3 to 5 years

1 midday nap of 1 or 2 hours

5 to 12 years

No midday nap will be required if they get sufficient sleep at night.

A healthy adult will not require a midday nap. But they can benefit if they can afford to have a power nap of 10 to 20 minutes duration. A midday nap lasting for 90 minutes to 120 minutes will be an advantage if they are sleep deprived. However, older adults do benefit if they have a nap sleep for an hour every day.

Does too much or too little sleep affect your body?

Too much or too little sleep has its own consequences. Both can be symptoms of any underlying medical condition.

You will feel groggy and sluggish after you wake up if you oversleep. Oversleeping can also lead to various health issues and increase the risk of various factors like cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and premature death.

Similarly, sleep deprivation can also hurt your health. Inadequate sleep causes daytime sleepiness and irritability, which can impair performance.

Other risk factors of sleep deprivation include:

  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Low libido
  • Impaired memory
  • Lack of concentration

If you are sleep deprived, contemplate consuming sleep supplements after consulting a physician. Sleep supplements are non-habit-forming and safe to use. You can stop the supplements once your sleep-wake cycle is regulated.

What are the side effects of napping?

Napping has several advantages and helps cognitive performance. But if not done in the right way, it can have some side effects that can harm your health as well. If you have any underlying medical condition, you should be even more careful about napping.

The ideal nap time is 10 to 20 minutes and can be stretched to a maximum of 30 minutes. Napping beyond 30 minutes can leave you disoriented and groggy. This normally happens when you wake from a deep sleep. If you are sleep deprived, the sleep inertia symptoms can be more severe and may last longer.

Napping for longer durations can make it difficult for you to sleep at night. This will be exacerbated for people who already have difficulty sleeping at night.

According to a 2015 meta-analysis, longer daytime naps are associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. When compared to not napping, daytime naps lasting more than 60 minutes were associated with a higher risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality. Age, overall health, and sleeping habits could all be factors.


While there is nothing better than a good night’s sleep for overall well-being, if you can have the luxury of a nap sleep for 10 to 20 minutes, you can reap numerous health benefits. However, if you are sleep-deprived, then a midday nap lasting for 90 minutes to 120 minutes will help complete the sleep-wake cycle to keep you refreshed and alert.

However, exercise caution not to overdo the midday napping as it may cause side effects. Like too little sleep, too much sleep can also have negative effects.


Can sleep be replaced by a nap?

While napping will not replace lost sleep, it will help you feel more rested during the day. Naps may be especially beneficial for shift workers or people who struggle to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Even a brief power nap can revitalise the rest of your day.

What happens if napping becomes a habit?

Daily naps, according to experts, may be a sign of insufficient nighttime sleep or an underlying health problem.

What is the best time to nap?

It is advisable to nap in the first half of the day, ideally early to mid-afternoon before 5 pm. It is also best to nap for either 20 minutes or 90 minutes so that your nap can maintain your nightly sleep. Late-evening naps should be avoided at all costs.

Are sleep supplements safe?

Sleep supplements are perfectly safe to consume in the right quantities. As with anything, it is best to consume sleep supplements in moderation.

When should I consume sleep supplements?

Setu’s sleep supplements in tablet and capsule form should be consumed 1-2 hours before sleeping. Our orally-dissolving strips can be taken 30-60 minutes before bedtime.

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