A nap can maximize your sleep health. Take advantage of its benefits and make sure that you’re not disrupting your regular nighttime routine in the meantime. You’ll find that you feel more well-rested and able to achieve more throughout the day.
But the big question is: how long should you nap for? What is the exact amount of sleep you need to be happy? This answer varies depending on your regular sleeping habits, but most experts say that a quick 20 to 30 minutes is an optimal nap length.
The idea of taking a short nap versus one that’s an hour or longer is that you only enter the first stage of sleep, which is the lightest. This leaves you feeling less groggy than coming out of a deep sleep. An early afternoon snooze can boost your performance, increase your focus, and ultimately, improve your mood throughout the day. Think of it as a midday jolt of energy for your body.
Another reason for the short nap is that typically that’s all that people have time for. To make the most of your naptime without disrupting your regular sleep schedule, here are a few tips to follow:
- Set a timer. For daytime naps, set a timer for 20-30 minutes of sleep. If it takes you longer to fall asleep, add five or ten extra minutes. By setting an alarm for a full half hour, you give yourself a buffer before and after to ease in and out of your ideal nap.
- Avoid late afternoon naps. Taking naps too late in the day can affect your nighttime routine. Even a short nap can throw off your body’s regular functioning and push back your bedtime. This creates a cyclical effect where you don’t feel like you received enough sleep and therefore, want to take more naps because you feel tired.
- Swap caffeine for a nap. You may reach for a pick-me-up in the afternoon with a latte or energy drink. Try a nap instead. Rather than using stimulants (especially sugary ones) to perk up your activity and mood, rejuvenate yourself with a nap instead. You might also want to consider a coffee nap, which occurs when you drink coffee before a short sleeping period. Some scientists believe that caffeine before a nap may potentially increase energy levels. This is due to the levels of adenosine dropping while you sleep, and increasing the amount of receptors to receive caffeine.
- Listen to your body. Every once in awhile the body simply needs a little extra rest. Sometimes a good nap length for adults is, simply, however much sleep is needed. When there’s time to spare, enjoy a longer nap on the weekend. Increased stress or illness can weigh us down and make us more tired than we realize. Sometimes the extra minutes are worth it.
By taking advantage of the power of a nap, it can prevent the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain and give the body a true break during the day. If you don’t have time for a nap or aren’t a nap person, try meditation instead. This also allows the body and mind to relax quietly without falling asleep.
Hectic lifestyles usually mean limited breaks, which can trigger health problems and result in burnout. A quick 15-20 minutes every now and then to take a nap or meditate won’t prevent you from getting what you need to get done. In fact, it may cause you to achieve it faster.
Benefits of Napping
Although naps aren’t meant to replace your regular sleep, they can have a positive impact on your health benefits. Naps can potentially improve your alertness and mood. They also help to relax and boost your energy level. If you can plan a schedule to work out, you can certainly plan a schedule to nap as well. (Sleep fitness, after all, is integral to overall fitness.) The more consistent you are to the schedule, the more your body will become familiar with napping, helping you reap more of the benefits.
Taking a nap is also positive for your mind as well. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety, and gives your brain a nice break.
Setting Up a Comfortable Nap Space
Although you can use your bed for a nap, it may be more difficult to wake up from a short slumber since your room is likely set up for a full night’s sleep. Instead, you may want to pick a comfortable, quiet area like a couch or guest room to lie down. Either way, make sure the room is cool enough to rest comfortably. Play soft music or invite a little bit of natural light into the room to avoid oversleeping. Silence your phone and limit other distractions.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Napping?
The urge to take more frequent or longer naps may mean you’re not getting enough sleep at night. If you’re feeling extra fatigued lately, consider how much sleep you’re receiving on a regular basis. Take into account the consistency and quality of your sleep as well. Napping too long or too regularly during the day may make you feel groggier than before. Try to stick with shorter nap times when needed as part of a regular sleep schedule.
Also, if you lie down to take a nap and don’t fall asleep, you may have needed a quiet “timeout” rather than a full-blown nap. Consider what your body needs to feel restored. Some days it may be sleep, while other days may call for a brisk walk around the block or a few moments of meditation instead.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep Health
Napping is one way to improve the amount of sleep you get, but it’s not the only way to improve your overall sleep health. Setting the stage for a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Quality, consistent sleep is as important as any other facet of health, such as diet, exercise, and proper hydration.
Sleep impacts our physical condition as well as our mental well-being. Other ways you can improve your sleep are:
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. A room that’s overheated or sheds too much light can disrupt sleep or make it hard to get to sleep. The Eight Sleep Pod adjusts your bed temperature throughout the night to offset even the smallest of environmental and physiology changes and ensure optimal sleep.(It’s like having a sleep coach working with you all night while you doze away.)
- Stick to a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and try to wake up at the same time every morning. If you stray from that once in awhile, get back on track as soon as possible.
- Wind down with relaxing activities. A couple of hours before your bedtime, choose activities that will get you in the right frame of mind for sleep. Taking a warm bath, reading, or drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea are good rituals to follow.
- Avoid eating spicy foods and drinking alcohol right before bed. Both can act as stimulants for the body and can trigger conditions like acid reflux, which can make it harder to get to sleep. Alternatively, foods like bananas, cottage cheese, and oatmeal promote better sleep. Try those as late-night snacks or learn more on 10 foods to eat before bed to help you sleep.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable. A mattress that’s lost its spring or a pillow that’s deflated can change how well you sleep at night. Since you’re used to sleeping with them every night, you may not immediately notice their condition. Take a quick assessment of your mattress and bedding and determine if an upgrade might be a good idea.
By maximizing your sleeping conditions and creating the most comfortable space possible, you’ll be able to get to a place that’s healthy and consistent. Sneaking in a nap every now and then doesn’t make up for lack of sleep at night. It’s meant to complement your sleep pattern and give you the added boost of energy that’ll help you crush your daily goals.