Napping has been proven to boost alertness, memory, creativity, and productivity. If you’re not getting the quality of sleep at night, a nap throughout the day may be necessary- here’s how to do it!
The best time to take your afternoon nap is between 1-3pm. This is when our natural sleep rhythms, our circadian rhythms prepare our bodies to sleep. We want to avoid napping too late because we don’t want it to interfere with bedtime.
How long should we be napping?
We can look at a typical adult sleep cycle. A full sleep cycle is typically around 90 minutes and throughout that time we are cycling through stages of light and deep sleep phases. As we enter stage 3 we are in a deeper stage of sleep so when you wake up from a nap after 30-60 minutes this is where you wake up feeling worse than when you went down for your nap. It’s what we call Sleep Inertia. This is the transitional state between sleep and wake, where there is still a desire to return to sleep. It feels like you have a ‘sleep hangover’.
To avoid that you have to limit your nap to 15-20 minutes or if you can really commit to the nap sleep for a full sleep cycle of 90 minutes. That way you are waking as your body is cycling into a phase of lighter sleep.
Creating a good environment
If you are going to take a nap, commit to the nap and create your own napping pod. You want to keep things quiet and dark – think cave like settings and you can use sleep tools like eye masks, ear plugs or noise machines to help create the perfect nap environment for you.
Drinking coffee before your nap can help you time the perfect nap. It’s been proven that drinking coffee before you take a nap can increase your alertness more than just drinking the coffee. It takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to metabolize so if you sleep for 20 minutes or so and then wake up you’ll be feeling the effects of the caffeine and a refreshing nap. Bingo!
If you’re still feeling sluggish and groggy when you wake up from your nap drinking ice cold water can help stimulate adrenaline that will get your heart pumping and boost blood flow to your brain.
Should everyone nap?
Overall napping can benefit most people, even if you get a full night of sleep.
Short naps generally don’t affect nighttime sleep quality for most people. However, if you experience chronic insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. Long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep.
If you are consistently waking up tired in the morning and experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor as these can be symptoms of a common sleep disorder – sleep apnea.
The Difference Between Sleep and Rest
We have to understand that sleep and rest are not the same thing. Many of us think that we are rested because we’ve gotten enough sleep but there are different types of rest that we need and they don’t all include the actual act of sleeping.
- Physical Rest: Physical rest can be both passive or active: Passive physical rest is to just let your body rest like sleeping and napping. Active physical rest means more low intensity movement like yoga, stretching, walking, and massages.
- Sensory Rest: We are a society that is on sensory overload. The bright lights, computer screens, background noise, let’s through in our tenth zoom call of the week, this can cause our senses to feel overwhelmed. This is where it’s really important to limit our sensory input by limiting sights and sounds. Perhaps it means unplugging at the end of the day, or setting a tech curfew an hour before bedtime. We need moments throughout the day or night where we can deprive our senses for a little bit.
- Emotional Rest: This is for the people pleaser, we all know one, and perhaps you are one. This is the dependable person, who always say yes, even when they want to say no. It’s important for this person to focus on emotional rest by learning to express their feelings and understand that we don’t have to please everyone. It’s okay to say no and be truthful in how you feel. If you’re not okay, it’s important to share that.
- Social Rest: This is where we need to take a look at the relationships that fill our tanks up and the ones that empty it. Surround yourself with people who get you. Who are positive and support for you no matter what. Sometimes we need to purge those in our lives who are too toxic and exhausting. This can even go as far as social media. Something that I’ve done during the pandemic is curated my social feeds and unfollow those that don’t give me the joy I need throughout the day.
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