Did you know that a third of American adults nap during the day? While powering through a busy agenda may seem honorable, napping can actually help you feel more productive, alert, and recharged to tackle daily tasks.
But before you hit the hay midday, be sure you’re familiar with the rules of the game. Keep in mind the no-no's and helpful hints outlined here to get the most out of your nap.
Why Do We Nap?
There are lots of reasons why adults need or like to nap—recovery from a sleepless night, to take a mental break, in anticipation of strenuous activity or an overnight shift, and so on. The good news is that the science behind the siesta backs up the benefits.
Napping has been shown to reduce sleepiness, help with cognitive abilities, improve memory
and learning, and assist with mental health and emotional wellbeing. While these all sound like great advantages—and they are—it’s important to note that not all naps are beneficial for the body and the mind.
Take a look at these eight practical tips for making naps work for you.
1. Close to Bedtime? No Way!
Napping gives the body a chance to rest and recharge, meaning you should wake feeling ready to tackle new tasks. Taking a nap too close to bedtime can throw off your internal clock and make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
2. A “Nap Anywhere” Policy
Most people nap in a place other than their bed, such as their car or couch. Especially when squeezing in a nap between errands or during a lunch break at work, it helps to be flexible about where you doze. But don’t let this flexibility lower your standards too much. Sleeping in an uncomfortable position can put serious strain on your joints, especially the neck and shoulders.
Though you may have to be creative with your siesta setup, always make sure your body feels comfortably supported before closing your eyes.
[Read: “The Best Position for Sleep and 7 Reasons to Find Yours.”]
3. Wide Awake? Don’t Force It!
Napping can provide a mental break during the day, which can be beneficial. But if you feel particularly alert or energized, don’t force a midday nap. Lying down and letting your mind race can enhance feelings of anxiety or stress—and not falling asleep will only worsen those worries.
4. No Multitasking
Similarly, napping should be your only focus during naptime. Don’t distract yourself with light reading, scrolling social media, or planning tomorrow’s agenda. Let your mind quiet down to get the most out of your nap.
Helpful Hints for a Healthy Naptime Routine
Now that you know what not
to do, add these helpful habits to your next nap to maximize relaxation and rejuvenation.
1. Stay on Schedule
One of the biggest mistakes is to doze off without setting an alarm. While a five-minute catnap is not long enough to reap the rewards of quality brain-wave rest, sleeping longer than 30 minutes can send your body into deep-sleep mode, which can throw a wrench in natural circadian rhythms. For napping, 10-20 minutes is ideal, so always set an alarm.
2. Early Afternoon Is Best
As mentioned, napping too close to bedtime is a terrible idea, but napping in the early morning can be just as bad. Keep your siesta schedule set to early afternoon for a beneficial break in the day that doesn’t compromise your internal clock.
3. Create Your Ideal Sleep Surroundings
If you find falling asleep midday to be a bit challenging, help yourself out by dimming the lights, setting up a soothing noise machine, and getting comfy. The more ideal your surroundings, the more likely you are to succumb to sleep—even if it’s not a longstanding habit yet.
[Read: “4 Supplements for Your Sleep Station.”]
4. Pre-Nap Caffeine for Wake-Up Kick
While not everyone agrees with this trend, many avid nappers swear by this old trick to maximize the impact of their nap. If you’re napping with the goal of becoming rejuvenated, then it can be helpful to have a source of caffeine about 10 minutes before you shut your eyes. Caffeine takes a bit of time to kick in, so just as you wake up from your nap, you may get an extra dose of alertness that can help kick-start the rest of the afternoon. Espresso shot anyone?
We all have slightly different sleep preferences. But sticking to these ground rules can bring your nap game to the next level and help establish healthy habits with big benefits. Happy napping!
Still awake? Whether you sleep like a baby or rest like a yogi it’s all about taking a break.