Despite their reputation as such, naps aren’t just for children. In fact, if you follow some key guidelines, they can be a powerful tool in your self-care arsenal. This is how to do naps right.
Getting enough sleep on a nightly basis is crucial to our health. Failure to get the recommended average of 7–8 hours of sleep per night can cause daytime fatigue, poor performance, and loss of productivity among many other undesirable things. Napping is regarded as an ideal way to make up for lack of sleep. However, it’s not as straightforward as that.
Although the jury is still out on the specific ways in which napping affects our biology, researchers agree on one thing—how we nap matters. Sleep too long and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and confused, sleep too late and you’ll struggle to fall asleep at night. It’s more of an art than it is a simple pleasurable habit.
Finally, before we dig in, reflect on what is driving your need to nap. While napping isn’t inherently harmful, and a power nap makes perfect sense for somebody working long hours or losing sleep caring for a newborn, increased daytime sleepiness can also result from sleep apnea or underlying health conditions. If you feel like you’re getting enough sleep at night, but you’re still exhausted during the day, it’s worth checking in with your doctor to rule out any underlying health issues.
That said, let’s dig into our best power nap tips to help you get the most out of your afternoon siesta.
Stick to 20- or 90-Minute Naps
The biggest complaint when it comes to napping is that sometimes you wake up feeling worse than before—it seems counterintuitive. In reality, it’s pretty simple: it depends on the phase of the sleep cycle you were in when you woke up. If you awaken during light sleep—the first 20 minutes after you fall asleep—you’ll feel refreshed and reenergized, ready to go back to work. If you wake up during deep sleep—a state you usually slip into 20-30 minutes after falling asleep—you’ll experience sleep inertia, a feeling of disorientation and poor cognitive performance.
This is why it’s important to time your naps if you take them before work or before engaging in an activity that requires you to be feeling at your best. If time is not an issue and you’re one to go to sleep late, you can also choose to nap for 90 minutes, which is the typical duration of a full sleep cycle.
Timing Is Everything
Ideally, naps should be taken 1–2 hours after lunch when your blood sugar and energy levels dip, and you feel naturally prone to sleep. Even if you’re not a napper, you likely know exactly the time of day we’re talking about: that period after lunch when all you can think about is going home from work and wondering if anyone would notice if you put your head on your desk. That’s peak quality nap time.
If you miss that window, it’s worth riding things out and waiting until your regular bedtime. Napping too late in the day could interfere with your regular sleep routine, leaving you exhausted again the next day, and leading to a cycle where you need that nap just to make it through the day.
Set the Stage for Successful Naps
Falling asleep is not always an easy task. For that reason, it’s good to set the scene to increase your chances of crossing into the land of dreams as fast as possible—especially if you’ve got work to do.
You should aim to find a dark, cool, and quiet room with no distractions of any kind that could interrupt your sleep. Set your phone to airplane mode to keep the notifications and calls away, wear an eye mask and earplugs to get inside your own little world, and open a window if the temperature inside is making you uncomfortable.
Not everyone naps, but if you’re incorporating a nap into your routine to give yourself a boost, then these tips will help ensure you wake up refreshed and ready to power through the rest of your day.