Naps: How to Nap and Why You Should
Who doesn’t love to nap? If done correctly, you wake up feeling refreshed and alert and now research shows that there are numerous health benefits! It’s no longer the guilty pleasure of the lazy or unemployed (or even the employed sneaking naps in during work hours). It will help improve job or school performance and makes you healthier. I’ve never been a huge fan of naps, mostly because I find that I can’t fall asleep during the day when I want to, but I found some tips that I’ll share from Psychology Today, Mental Floss, Boston Globe, Life Hack, WikiHow and Apartment Therapy, that have definitely helped me on occasion.
1. Give yourself permission to nap.
Don’t feel guilty! Now that there is all this research about how good naps are for you, there’s no reason to feel ashamed of napping. What you’re actually doing is making yourself more productive, alert, creative, and healthier. It also makes you happier (usually), reduces the risk of making an error or having an accident, and if you nap for long enough, it helps you to catch up on lost sleep. If you’re feeling bad about napping, it will make it much harder to fall asleep (trust me, this is a problem I have often).
2. Choose the right time!
Depending on whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, there are better times to take a nap. Most mammals don’t sleep for one long period, but instead sleep for short periods throughout the day. We are still programmed like that, even though we only sleep at night, so our bodies our biologically set to get sleepy between 1pm and 3pm, as well as between 2am and 4am (our normal sleeping time). If you’re an early bird, you’ll be sleepier earlier, so the optimum nap time is between 1 and 1:30. For night owls, look for a later time such as 2 or 2:30. Not every person is the same so these times will vary but just don’t nap too close to bed time, or else it will make it hard to fall asleep.
Make sure the room you’re in is dark, wear eye shades if you have to. Also, white noise can help you fall asleep, as it will help block out other noises going on during the day. So try turning on a fan or if that isn’t helping, you can always wear ear plugs. Since the body cools down as you sleep, make sure to have a blanket, just don’t be too warm or you will end up sleeping for longer than you want (though alarms will help!) If you can change into comfortable clothes that will also help. Also, remember to go to the bathroom, so that isn’t keeping you up. Make sure there are no other distractions, try and lie down in a comfortable spot such as a bed or couch (though a car seat may have to do sometimes). Relax and breathe deeply and try to clear your head.
4. No standing commitments
If you have a long to-do list, this will preoccupy you and will keep you awake if you try to nap. Make sure to finish everything you just HAD to do so it’s not staying on your mind and making you feel guilty for sleeping.
5. Caffeine before you nap?
Since caffeine takes about a half an hour to kick in, try drinking some right before you take your nap. That will, it will hit you you’re waking up (unless you’re planning on taking a longer nap of course), and it will leave you with even more energy.
6. Don’t worry if you can’t sleep.
If you aren’t falling asleep, don’t stress about it. Even resting with your eyes closed for 20 minutes will help you feel more relaxed, and will help your blood pressure drop. Also, if you worry about falling asleep while you’re taking your nap, this will also keep you up (also a common problem of mine). If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t then you’re still doing your body and mind some good.
7. Don’t forget an alarm!
If you nap without setting an alarm, you will most likely oversleep. Not many people are programmed to sleep for just 20 minutes and instantly wake up. Since sleeping for too long can leave you feeling groggy (not helpful if you’re going back to work or class), setting an alarm will help to make sure you get all the benefits of the nap, without the downfalls.
Types of naps:
Nano nap: This is the kind of nap you take when you nod off on someone’s shoulder on the bus or when you quickly fall asleep on your desk in class. It’s only 10-20 seconds long, and as of right now scientists aren’t sure whether there are any benefits to this.
Micro nap: Lasts for 2-5 minutes. Has been shown to help shed sleepiness. This is the kind of nap I take often. I will wake up from it and want to finish napping for another 15 minutes, but find that I am surprisingly not tired at all.
Mini nap: 5-20 minutes long, it increases your alertness, stamina, motor learning, and your motor performance.
Power nap: Nap for 20-30 minutes, and you’ll improve your muscle memory and help your long-term memory by clearing your brain of useless information. You’ll also get the benefits of a micro and mini nap as well.
Lazy man’s nap: This is a longer nap, about 50-90 minutes. To get the full effect of this nap you’ll want to sleep probably closer to 90 minutes so you can get a full REM cycle. This kind of nap includes slow wave sleeping, and is good for improving perceptual processing, and can help heal bones and muscle if the system is flooded with human growth hormones. As this nap can leave you feeling groggy, this isn’t the best kind to take on weekdays or when you have a lot of work to do, but it is good on weekends to help catch up on lost sleep.
- Cultures that promote afternoon napping have a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
- Helps to heal the brain: see above benefits of each type of nap.
- It decreases daytime sleepiness and it also decreases the amount of time spent trying to fall asleep. It increases the ability to stay asleep during the night, and people who nap are likely to stay asleep at night for 20 more minutes.
- It puts you in a better mood and increases the quality of your interactions with other people.
- Here’s an infographic on napping from Daily Infographic
So enjoy your nap time! You now need no excuse to sneak in that nap between classes or on the weekend. It’s good for you.