Quick question: How many hours of sleep is the ideal nap?

One hour? Two hours? Three hours? Eight hours (like the length of my nap on this past Saturday night, when I dozed off at 5:45 in the evening and woke up at 2 in the morning)?

No. None of the above. It’s 20 minutes.

That’s right, a measly 20 damn minutes.

That’s according to Damien Léger, a sleep doctor in Paris who spoke to The New York Times Magazine recently. Léger says you should aim to sleep for a third of an hour. Anything longer and you’ll likely drift into “slow-wave sleep,” which will leave you with “sleep drunkenness” rather than rejuvenation.

Take your naps in the afternoon when you’re feeling drowsy. They are much more powerful than caffeine. Best of all, there are absolutely no negative side effects.

So set an alarm clock for 20 minutes and don’t hit the snooze button!

A few other tips and tidbits, courtesy of this same New York Times Magazine article and Léger:

>>Naps aren’t luxuries; they are practical measures that can prevent sleep deprivation. And sleep deprivation is bad because it’s associated with terrible things like hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, cancer and an increased risk of death.

>>A short nap can seriously improve your mental capacities. In one study, subjects who took an afternoon nap were nearly twice as likely to solve a video-game problem.

>>You should find a safe space for your nap. An unoccupied office or a dedicated rest area where no one will bother you.

>>You should find a place that’s dark and quiet. Or make it so. Block light with an eye mask. Use earplugs if you’re in a noisy area.

>>You can even nap sitting upright, with your cheek on your desk if you want. Just bring a small pillow for your head.

>>You should not be ashamed of your daily napping routine. Tell you co-workers you intend to sleep for 20 minutes. Take your naps in the afternoon when you’re feeling drowsy. They are much more powerful than caffeine, says Léger. Best of all, there are absolutely no negative side effects.

Except maybe lines on your face.

Photo: Twenty20