Why Is It Called a Cat Nap? Cat Nap Meaning Explained


4 min read SLEEP
A cat taking a cat nap in the sun on a cozy cushion

Cat Nap Meaning (aka, The Main Point):

Do you often find yourself very tired and feeling sleepy in the afternoon, or feeling a little slow after lunch, possibly even after a full night's sleep? You may have heard in casual conversation with friends that a cat nap could be the quick fix you need. But do you know why it's called a cat nap? Here is the full cat nap meaning explained (and why it might be just what you need!).

The term cat nap (sometimes written as catnap or cat-nap) has gained popularity as a way to describe a short nap or short periods of rest that can rejuvenate your mind and body after you fall asleep for a little while — people often refer to the phrase by another common name: power nap.

Why Cat Naps Matter for YOU:

Don't underestimate the power of a good cat nap. Cats definitely don't! Nowadays, short daytime naps can be a game-changer for your mental health and even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The benefits extend beyond just feeling less tired; something as simple even a catnap can actually improve your overall well-being (especially for busy parents!).

Power Nap Stat Line:

One power nap study reported, "A daytime short nap" that has just "3 minutes of stage 2 sleep has recuperative effects." In other words, a very short nap can work wonders for your energy levels, much like a short walk can do for your mind and body. [Source]


Putting it simply and laying counter-arguments to rest, the researchers write succinctly, "The recuperative effect of a nap of less than 30 minutes has been confirmed." It doesn't get much clearer than that!

But how...?

Ready to start napping like a pro? Find a nice space in a cozy area that can be made comfortable to set yourself up for a successful lie down. Make the room dark (light can make it harder to fall asleep) and aim for a quick nap that lasts no longer than 20-30 minutes. This ensures you'll wake up feeling refreshed, instead of that awful groggy "wake up feeling" that sometimes happens upon waking after midday sleeping. Remember, this isn't about sleeping for hours, but just about a half-hour at a time.

And why...?

Ever wondered why it's called a "cat nap" or the origin of the phrase? The term takes its origin from how cats take a series of naps throughout the day and night. This idiosyncratic cat-like behavior is thought to help cats stay their alert and agile selves, and humans can take afternoon napping to reap similar benefits. "Cat nap" as a term gained popularity by at least the early 1800's, and the first official literary usage came in 1916 via The Son of Tarzan, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The phrase appears in a sentence that comes in chapter twelve and reads, “Often before had it supported his sleepy head, and now he leaned back to enjoy the forbidden pleasure of a cat nap.

Short Nap Analogy:

Think of a cat nap or power napping as the espresso shot of sleep. It's a quick powerful doze that gives you the energy you need to get through the rest of the day without the jitters or crash that can come when you doze for too long during the daytime hours before your normal bedtime.

One-Sentence Summary:

If you're struggling with daytime sleepiness or mental fog, incorporating cat naps into your daily routine can significantly improve your alertness, mood, and overall health, if done properly with some of the information presented here, in studies, and in consultation with a medical professional.

Case in Point:

A study involving university students (age 19-24) found that those who engaged in a cat nap in a laboratory environment had higher reported mood and performed better on mentally challenging tasks than those who did not.

For the skeptics:

While cat naps are a great way to boost your energy levels, we are not implying that they should (or even could) be a substitute for quality nighttime sleep. If you're experiencing ongoing sleep issues, for example, it's very important to consult a healthcare provider and describe what's going on for a comprehensive evaluation. Every person and age group is different and your doctor may have a different set of small daily actions you can take for better sleep and better health.

How to Fall Asleep for a Great Cat Nap:

  1. If you're looking to optimize your cat naps, consider upgrading your sleep environment by blocking out the sunshine and giving your body the break it needs to truly relax.

  2. A high-quality mattress, pillow, topper and bedding can make a world of difference. They can be helpful in allowing your catnapping to be cool and comfortable and even ergonomic.

  3. Visit our SLEEP365® stores to find the perfect fit for you and your catnaps today!

Next steps:

For more tips on achieving better sleep and other health benefits for body and brain alike, visit our website. We offer a wealth of resources, from articles on sleep hygiene to premium bedding collections, to help you start sleeping better today.



Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a replacement for the advice of a medical professional. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related issues and any other medical conditions for you and your family.

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