7 Tips for Your Best Nap Ever
Have you discovered the power of napping yet? March 14th is National Nap Day, so there’s never been a better time to discover the many benefits of a snooze-break. In fact, many major companies are doing just that. For example, Google, Huffington Post and Cisco all have nap pods, while Ben & Jerry’s and Uber have dedicated nap rooms. Gone are the days where naps were associated with laziness – now they’re proving the opposite. In fact, naps can help you be more productive in your daily life, as well as promote better cognition and improved memory. They can even aid in boosting your immunity.
So how can you make napping work for you? Here are 7 top tips for making naps your new best friend.
Create a sleep-friendly environment. Some people can nap anywhere. For the rest of us, it’s a good idea to find a comfortable spot where you can lie down, to increase your chances of falling asleep quickly. A space that is dark, cool, and quiet is ideal. If that isn’t possible and you know that too much light or noise can be a problem for you, bring along an eye mask and earplugs or a white noise app to help cancel out those distractions.
It’s all in the timing. Setting aside a specific nap time is also a good idea, especially since the time you nap can actually have an effect on how well you sleep at night. The best time for most people to nap is between 1pm and 3pm, around 8 hours after waking up, when your body naturally slows down. If you’re on a more unusual sleep schedule – or if you just want a more specific time window to work with – try using this convenient nap wheel, created by psychologist, Dr. Sara Mednick.
Don’t sleep for too long. Have you ever woken up from a nap feeling more tired than you did when you decided to lie down? That groggy, disoriented state is called ‘sleep inertia’ and it happens when you wake up during the slow-wave portion of your natural sleep cycle. The best way to avoid this is to nap for only 20-30 minutes. Or, if you’re craving a long nap, try sleeping for one full sleep cycle of 90-120 minutes. Using an app to track your individual sleep cycle will help you know the patterns that work best for your body.
Set an alarm. The best way to make sure you don’t sleep for too long is to set an alarm. Not only will it ensure that you don’t veer into REM sleep territory, it can also help you fall asleep as you won’t be worrying about whether you’ll wake up at the right time.
Relax! The main barrier to falling asleep is an anxious or overactive mind. So the last thing you want is to let stress about not falling asleep or other worries ruin your restorative sleep sesh. Try a bit of an aromatherapy trick – using lavender or other soothing scents can really help to calm you and tell your body that it’s time to sleep. Writing a to do list beforehand or meditating for a few minutes is another way to help clear your mind. When you lie down for your nap, your only focus should be rest and relaxation.
Try a caffeine nap. Who knew, ‘caffeine naps’ are a real thing! If you’re planning on taking an afternoon siesta, that doesn’t mean you have to pass on an afternoon cup of joe. In fact, combining the two could produce the best results, leaving you at your most refreshed when you wake up. Here’s how it works… Since caffeine takes around 20-30 minutes to start working, drinking coffee right before laying down for a quick nap will have you feeling alert, energetic, and ready to get up and face the rest of the day when you wake.
Practice makes perfect. Did you know that you can train yourself to be better at napping? While taking a nap might feel unnatural at first, all you need is to get into the groove. Set a nap break for yourself at the same time every day for a week or two, and don’t pressure yourself to fall asleep right away. Your brain and body will soon get into the habit.
Even if you don’t fall asleep, studies show that laying down and allowing your body and mind to rest for a few minutes is beneficial. So you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Relax, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and allow yourself to drowse for 20-30 minutes and you’ll feel all the better for it.