I am a napping enthusiast. In college, I used to arrange my class schedule with a large break in the middle of the day just for this purpose. Even now, I often snuggle up under the covers when my toddler naps. I dread the day when he quits napping and I have to give it up entirely. Oddly, I have many friends who just don’t get as excited about naps as I do. There are two explanations for this: either they are a toddler, or they are napping wrong.
Incorrect napping can lead to grogginess and irritability, which is the exact opposite of what my naps are meant to achieve. Below are five tips designed to maximize your nap’s effectiveness and avoid that dreaded post-nap fog:
Settle for a Cat Nap, or Fully Commit
Napping for the incorrect amount of time is the most common mistake made by rookie nappers. Because of the nature of our sleep cycles, grogginess upon waking is most severe after sleeping for a length of time between twenty and ninety minutes. During this window, you have napped for long enough to fall into a deep slumber, but you have not given your body time to complete a full cycle of sleep. If you cannot commit to the ideal ninety minute nap, you should set a timer for twenty minutes in order to keep yourself from slipping into deep sleep.
If you are taking a short nap to refresh before getting back to work, consider having a cup of coffee before you lay down. This sounds counter-intuitive, but research on the coffee nap is promising – and I can vouch for its powers firsthand. The concept is actually very simple. You are essentially taking a power nap while you wait for the caffeine to kick in. When it does, you will awaken chipper, alert, and ready to tackle the day.
Forget Your Nap Guilt
Napping is a healthy habit that can ultimately boost your mood and productivity – so why do we feel so bad about it? If you are feeling guilty, you will be less inclined to take time for a nap and less able to sleep peacefully if you do decide to go for it. Before you lay down, congratulate yourself on two accomplishments and think of how much more productive you’ll be post-slumber. You wouldn’t begrudge a co-worker a ten minute walking break. Why should it be so different if your eyes are shut?
Create a Sanctuary
Don’t settle for a nap at your desk unless you really have to. Go somewhere dark, and lie down if possible. Try to find a quiet place, or put some white noise on your headphones. Keep the temperature just right – whether your personal tastes run cooler or warmer. Even if you can’t have your nap at home, you can turn your car into a makeshift nap space by keeping a nap kit in your trunk – a warm, soft blanket, earplugs, and an eye mask.
Get the Timing Right
Due to human circadian rhythms, we are primed to fall into deep sleep in the afternoon, and stick to lighter sleep in the morning. Keep this in mind when planning your nap. If you are going for a short refresher nap, do so in the morning. If you’d like a full ninety minute sleep session, snuggle up after lunch.
There you have it – all of the napping wisdom I’ve accrued in my many, many years of experience. Go for it, and take a nap with the advice above. You’ll love it!