Optimize your nap: How to catch a few Z's without getting groggy

Hint: It's all about sleep cycles

There's no two ways about it -- napping is good for you!  Study after study reveals that most Americans don't get enough sleep, and taking naps can help improve productivity.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin say getting plenty of also replenishes a certain type of cell that insulates our brain's circuitry.  Their findings suggest that losing sleep might aggravate some symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and that a lack of sleep during adolescence can lead to long-term consequences.

If your schedule doesn't allow a good night's sleep -- consider taking the time to nap.  The Washington Post says optimizing sleep cycles can help you get the most out of a short burst of sleep.  Experts break sleep down into several stages, which the brain cycles through roughly every 90 to 120 minutes.  There are a couple of options to avoid grogginess: sleep for 10-20 minutes, in the NREM (non rapid-eye movement) stage of sleep, or sleep for 90 minutes, which allows you to pass through one full REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep cycle.

Half-hour naps may cause sleep inertia -- that's the hangover-like feeling you get when waking up from a nap that didn't quite do the trick.

Click here for a helpful infographic from The Washington Post.

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