What does “cat nap” mean?

Discover the benefits of cat naps, short periods of rest that boost energy and improve alertness. Learn how they differ from power naps and their historical origins. Try a cat nap for a quick recharge!

Understanding Cat Naps

Cat naps are short periods of rest or sleep that typically last between 20-30 minutes.

The term “cat nap” gained popularity by at least the early 1800s, and it is thought to have originated from how cats take a series of naps throughout the day and night.

This idiosyncratic cat-like behavior is thought to help cats stay alert and agile, and humans can take afternoon napping to reap similar benefits.

Definition and Duration

A cat nap refers to a very short or light sleep of 20 to 30 minutes.

It is a phrase used to describe a short nap where a person sleeps for a short duration during the day.

That duration is often only enough time to get some rest but not enough to disrupt the nighttime sleep schedule.

In contrast to a long nap, which can cause grogginess and interfere with nighttime sleep, a cat nap is meant to be a quick energy boost.

Comparing Cat Naps and Power Naps

Cat naps are similar to power naps, which are also short periods of rest that aim to improve alertness and productivity.

However, there are a few key differences between the two.

Power naps typically last between 10-20 minutes, while cat naps last between 20-30 minutes.

Additionally, power naps are often taken to combat fatigue and improve cognitive performance, while cat naps are taken for a quick boost of energy.

Historical Origins

The term “cat nap” was popularized in literature by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his book “The Son of Tarzan.” In the book, the protagonist takes a “cat nap” to recover from a long journey.

However, the term was already in use before Burroughs’ book, as mentioned earlier.

It is thought to have originated from how cats sleep throughout the day and night, taking short naps to stay alert and agile.


  • After a long day at work, she took a quick cat nap to recharge before going out with friends.
  • He always takes a cat nap after lunch to help him get through the rest of the workday.
  • She set an alarm for a 30-minute cat nap to help her stay alert during the late-night study session.


  • Power nap
  • Catnap
  • Doze