Naps Vs Meditation: What’s the Better Refresher?

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It’s extremely common to feel a lag in energy during the midafternoon. Circadian rhythms may be to blame – we typically feel a dip in wakefulness around eight hours after the time of getting up. This means if you’re waking at seven, 3pm is the danger zone. For many, this makes the afternoon prime nap time. But others are relying on meditation for the energy boost they need to get through the slump.

In our fast paced world, it’s becoming more and more evident that switching off is not just useful but essential. Not only can it boost mental health, physical health and mood, but it can actually be a boon for productivity and quality of work. Whether it be a nap or a meditation session, never feel guilty for needing to take a break to refresh and revive. It’s not a waste of time, and can in fact improve efficiency and help you get more out of your day.

Meditation can have a similar boon to feeling of wellbeing as naps. Both have tremendous and well documented positive impacts on productivity, stress levels and mood. But when it comes to actual cognitive function or genuine sleep deprivation, only naps can fix the issue. So the real thing to focus on is the reasons why you’re feeling lackluster – is it circadian rhythms causing a slump, or a genuine lack of quality sleep?

So which is better – the traditional forty winks, or a meditation session? Here we compare the benefits and drawbacks of both in order to help you make an informed decision.

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Naps are a well known way to beat daytime sleepiness – but not all naps are created equal. Some say twenty minutes is the ideal cycle of sleep to maximise refreshed feeling while minimising grogginess, but longer naps and REM sleep can also be useful in order to dream, visit the unconscious mind and organise thoughts. Here are the benefits and drawbacks to an afternoon nap.

Pros Of A Nap

  • Some claim the only real way to satisfy sleepiness is with genuine sleep. If the “appetite” for sleep is genuine, and likely caused by sleep deprivation, meditation is unlikely to cut it. Plus, the sitting still with closed eyes may actually turn into an unintentional nap, anyway.
  • Napping boosts performance and alertness, both in the immediate waking period and for some hours afterwards, making it useful for professional and personal productivity alike.
  • Naps also have a proven beneficial impact on serotonin (which affects happiness) and cortisol (which affects stress) levels, which means they have a positive impact on mood.
  • There are numerous benefits of naps to the body’s physical health, too, for example boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure.

Cons Of A Nap

  • Post nap grogginess can be a huge caveat to the energy boosting benefits of napping. It’s more common the longer nap you take, but can affect even shorter, “ideal,” twenty minute naps. If you have something important you need to be alert for, napping beforehand may just not be worth the risk.
  • Naps can also provoke night time sleep problems such as insomnia by disrupting the sleep / wake cycle. Napping can also reduce the quality of nighttime sleep, perpetuating daytime sleepiness and increasing the need for more naps.

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There are many different types of meditation, but they all come down to one basic tenet – relaxing the mind and trying to focus on the breath. Meditation is a way to exercise the unconscious mind, practice mindfulness and lessen anxieties. Although it’s not as traditionally restful as a nap, a session of meditation is another valid way to refresh and revive – and a meditation habit has multiple benefits to both mood and productivity. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of meditation.

Pros Of Meditation

  • Many who begin a meditation habit report needing less sleep, and a feeling of heightened and more stable energy levels. This can mean meditators are less prone to that three pm slump.
  • Meditation can contribute to an overall boost to mood, meaning the irritability or depression caused by lack of sleep or sleepiness are lessened. In fact, meditation is often prescribed for those suffering from mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
  • There are many different types of meditation. One can simply sit and focus on the breath, or try a guided meditation tailored to their needs. You can find ones for concentration, confidence boosting, lowering levels of anxiety and much more. Unlike naps, meditation can be targeted at one particular thing.
  • Sleep deprivation is also a common reason for afternoon tiredness. And one of the prime reasons for a lack of good quality sleep is stress. While naps can lower stress and boost mood, it’s likely the nighttime sleep pattern could be adversely affected by sneaking extra sleep during the day. Meditation, however, can lessen stress, boost melatonin levels and thus promote a better quality of nighttime sleep – which means you’ll feel less tired both today and tomorrow.
  • Meditation also has benefits on physical health, particularly the cardiovascular system and the immune system. It can also decrease inflammation and pain.
  • Meditation has many of the same brain boosting benefits as naps: increasing focus and attention span, improving creative thinking, boosting memory and furthering the ability to multitask.

Cons Of Meditation

  • One single session doesn’t have any proven effect. It is the cumulative effect of a daily meditation habit which reaps the rewards in terms of energy and mood. It usually takes at least four consecutive twenty minute meditation sessions in order to notice any sort of difference.
  • Meditation can certainly never be a replacement for sleep, and treating it as such may be quite a dangerous way of thinking. Sleep is an absolutely essential factor in overall physical and mental health, and its importance cannot be stressed enough.
  • Meditation can sometimes increase anxiety, particularly for beginners. Sitting still and trying to clear the mind can bring up a lot of things one doesn’t particularly want to deal with. However, over time this anxiety will lessen as you confront it, and after some time meditating overall anxiety levels will improve.


Both conscious and unconscious resting of the brain has clear benefits in terms on mental refreshment, work performance and mood. The main difference between napping and meditation is awareness. It’s likely a personal preference as to which seems more appealing and has greater positive effect.

Overall, both naps and meditation are great and healthy ways to take a break, refresh the brain, and boost energy. Which to go for is a subjective choice based on personal experience. One thing is clear though – both naps and meditation aren’t a luxury, but a key factor in a productive and healthy life.

Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a freelance writer based in Manchester, UK. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Daily Telegraph, Professional Photography Magazine, Bustle, Ravishly and more. When not writing, she enjoys pubs, knitting, nature and mysteries.