Have you ever been going about your day, and you hit that mid-afternoon slump? Whether it’s because you haven’t had enough caffeine to combat the exhaustion of your day or you had a pretty restless night’s sleep the night before, a nap can be a great way to offset your fatigue. However, if you’ve done some dabbling in the area of afternoon naps, you’ll probably already know that not all naps are created equal. Sometimes you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the rest of your day, and other times, you wake up groggy, grumpy and ready for more sleep.
Thankfully, doctors and researchers have done some serious studies into why naps can have such a different impact on your day. Knowing the do’s and don’ts of napping will help you carefully plan out your next power nap to get all the benefits.
The Benefits of Napping Regularly
A short nap, between 30 and 90 minutes, has been shown to have some profound benefits. One of these is improved brain function. For example, some studies have shown that people who regularly napped between 30 and 90 minutes had better word recall and were better at figure drawing. These are both indicators of a good memory and good brain cognition.
A short nap has also been shown to boost alertness and improve performance with creative projects. This increased mental sharpness and improved brain function have influenced a few companies to encourage their employees to take brief naps on the clock. Although napping at work is still largely frowned upon, there is increasing evidence that there are some serious productivity advantages to allowing short power naps. Companies like Google and Uber have some dedicated spaces to allow their employees to nap on the job.
Midday rest can also improve relaxation and decrease stress levels. Even if it’s difficult for you to actually fall asleep during a nap, napping can be a great time to relax, unwind and allow your mind and body to rest. Aside from the short-term benefits of napping, naps may also be linked to improved long-term health.
Problems with Long Naps
All of the benefits of napping are dependent on only spending between 30 and 90 minutes sleeping. Sleeping for more than an hour and a half puts you in a deeper part of your sleep cycle, making it more challenging to wake up feeling refreshed. In addition, longer naps can produce sleep inertia, making you feel more drowsy when you get up.
Naps over 90 minutes can have the opposite effect of shorter naps. While brief naps have been shown to improve brain function, longer naps can create cognition problems and interfere with your ability to think, problem-solve and form memories. Long naps can also make it more difficult to sleep at night and inhibit your regular sleep routine.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Napping
Sleeping for longer than 90 minutes can actually have harmful effects on us. So, the first “do” of napping is keeping your rests short. If a power nap is your goal, sleeping for 20 to 30 minutes is ideal. If you’re aiming for a more restorative snooze, then 90 minutes should be your goal.
When taking a nap, try to make sure that you keep the room dark and minimize the noises and distractions. This will help you get the most out of your naptime. Research shows that sleeping in the dark is instrumental to the quality of your sleep. Your brain’s chemistry responds to light levels, and darker lighting instructs your brain to produce more melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep soundly.
Once you’ve woken up from your nap, give your mind and body a little bit of time to catch up before starting work again. Maybe try stretching or going for a brisk walk to make sure that you’re completely awake before tackling jobs that require precision or a quick response time.
It is also important to make sure to nap between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to ensure you get all the benefits without accidentally interfering with your regular nighttime sleep schedule. Research shows that this is the best time to catch a quick power nap as long as you can effectively darken your space and minimize distractions.
A Parting Reminder
If you’re experiencing some occasional afternoon drowsiness, hopefully, this guide will help you plan out some effective and restful power naps. When done correctly, power naps can have tremendous benefits for your health and peace of mind. Just be sure to avoid sleeping past the 90-minute mark since the benefits of napping turn into problems past that point.
The best way to maintain your health and stay rested is to ensure that you’re getting at least seven and a half to eight hours of quality sleep every night. If you regularly feel exhausted throughout your day and need to nap constantly, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to see if you have any underlying sleep disorders.