Everyone has a different philosophy about napping. Some people love it, others hate it. Whole cultures base schedules around them. So how do you get the most out of a nap, or should you take one at all?
Napping can have one of two outcomes. It can refresh you and give you energy for the rest of the day, or you can become more groggy and even get a headache. There are ways to avoid the groggy, disoriented feeling. There are also ways to keep naps from interfering with your nighttime sleep.
Time of Day
It appears that the many cultures who plan for a siesta at around 2:00 pm are on to something. According to Mayo Clinic a nap that starts sometime between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm is least likely to interfere with nighttime sleep. The body is naturally sleepy during this time and it is easy to drift off and take a short nap. The Boston Globe suggests that a short nap in the afternoon “elevates mood and sharpens motor skills.”
The length of a nap is also important. Our bodies’ sleep moves in cycles from lighter sleep to deeper sleep. The Boston Globe points out that to avoid sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling, you should take naps either shorter than 20 minutes or longer than 90 minutes. After about 20 minutes of napping the body begins to enter deep wave sleep. If you wake up during the middle of this deep wave sleep, you are likely to experience sleep inertia. Keeping naps to less than 20 minutes will also reduce the likelihood that a nap will interfere with regular nighttime sleep. However, if you are expecting a late night or early morning in the near future, or have had some other loss of sleep, naps of 90 minutes can help restore energy and make up for the lost sleep.
If you can, nap in your bedroom, where your body is already used to sleeping. If you are somewhere else, be sure to make the area as comfortable as possible. Closing the shades, finding a light blanket, and finding a place to lay down will all improve your ability to sleep. Be sure to set you alarm so that you can keep your nap on schedule.
Do you like to take naps? What is your favorite time of day to nap?