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The Art of Taking a Good Nap

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If you haven’t taken a good nap since college (ah, remember those days?), it’s time to get back into the habit—especially if you’ve recently pulled a near all-nighter or work a night shift.

Just two 30-minute naps could reverse the negative health effects of an extremely sleep-deprived night, according to a new study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. French researchers restricted people’s sleeping time to just two hours (ouch!) on two different nights; following one of the sleepless nights, the subjects were able to take two short naps (one in the morning, one in the afternoon).

After a night on such little sleep, the study participants showed predictably negative health signs: they had higher levels of norepinephrine, a stress-induced hormone that raises heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, as well as lower levels of the immune protein IL-6, showing that their resistance to viruses was suppressed. But when the participants were able to nap, their norepinephrine and IL-6 levels returned to normal. (These 10 Celebrities Who Love to Sleep will show you how napping is done.)

Previous research has found that naps help boost your alertness, enhance performance, and even reduce mistakes—all reasons we’re ready to get back on the naptime bandwagon now. But before you crawl under your desk (or the backseat of your car, or into your bed, or head over to one of the Coolest Real World Nap Rooms…) remember this: Keep them short (30 minutes, max), keep them relatively early (too close to bedtime and you’ll ruin your next night’s sleep), and filter out as much light and noise as you can. Now, go forth and snooze!

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