We humans are a rare breed who don’t sleep for short periods spread out throughout the day. According to the Sleep Foundation, 85 percent of mammal species sleep in this sporadic way and it turns out there’s a lot to be said for the power nap—maybe we should pay attention.
If you’re a nap naysayer, you may be missing out on an excellent energy boost that could give you more relaxation and more focus. Plus, you can nap in bed, on the couch, in the car, at the table, or wherever you have access to some comfort and a place to lay your head.
The Benefits of Napping
First, let’s take a look at five solid reasons you should incorporate napping into your daily routine—if not every day, then at least when you need it.
Naps Fend Off Sleep Deprivation
You’ve probably felt the effects of sleep deprivation sometime in your life—maybe even right now, unironically, as you read this article about napping.
You wake up groggy. You never really feel like you get going for the day. Taking a nap helps ensure you’re getting enough sleep each day so that you can shake off that tired feeling. Whether you didn’t get enough sleep last night (or this week!) a nap can help.
Naps Increase Alertness
When you wake up from a nap, you’re blessed with newfound alertness that you may have been missing in your pre-nap state of slight exhaustion. That newfound alertness has the potential to last a few hours, so be sure to put it to good use.
Naps Reduce Accidents
When was the last time you got tired while driving? Did you pull over and take a nap or just keep pushing on? If you kept pushing on, you were putting yourself and other people at risk—something almost all of us are guilty of and millions of drivers do every day.
There are simple answers to keeping you from driving tired—pull into a rest stop and take a quick 20-minute nap. Easier yet, be sure to get a full night of sleep before you hit the road. Some caffeine may help, but napping is best.
Even if you’re getting behind the wheel the accident reduction benefits still apply: so many workplace accidents, accidents around the home, and more can be traced to fatigue and poor thinking.
Naps Increase Productivity
Naps, no matter what shift you work, can be beneficial in productivity. However, it’s common for people who work something other than a 9 to 5 job to suffer from increased fatigue and be more impaired in job performance. Naps alone may only help a little bit with your night shift fatigue, but combined with coffee; it can help you stay more alert and get more work done.
Naps are Restorative and Relaxing
Taking a nap is like getting a mini-vacation from work and life. Think of it as a way to add to your self-care routine. By adding regular naps to your weekly routine, you’ll be more relaxed and have more energy to get everything done you want to do, at work and outside of work.
The Negatives of Napping (and How to Nap Effectively)
Nappy is pretty great but not without potential downsides. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to fall asleep at will. If trying to nap has you toss for ten minutes with your eyes wide open, you’re not getting any benefits. This can happen if you have difficulty sleeping in the daytime as well.
If you nap for too long, you may develop sleep inertia. More than twenty minutes of nap time can lead to even more grogginess since you allow yourself to drift towards deep sleep. Too much sleep during naptime can also affect your ability to get to sleep when it’s time for bed.
Before you add a nap to your daily schedule, it’s important to know how to nap. There’s more to it than laying down and closing your eyes. Naptime and nap conditions will offer you a more productive short sleep period.
Nap for the Right Amount of Time…
When you lay down for your rest, set the alarm for ten to twenty minutes from the time you’re going to go to sleep. Any more than twenty minutes allows you to fall into a deeper sleep, which can leave you even groggier than you felt when you laid down.
… And Nap at the Right Time
Give yourself about seven hours between the end of your nap and when you’ll be going to bed for the night. If you nap too close to your normally scheduled bedtime, it could affect your sleep schedule and give you insomnia. The earlier you nap, the better.
If you’re at work when you should be napping, take a nap in your car or the breakroom. Use what would have been a fifteen-minute smoke break as a fifteen-minute rejuvenating nap.
Create a Napping Zone
If you find it hard to fall asleep in the daylight, you can do things to give your mind and body the illusion that its night. Take a nap in a dark room, use a sleep mask, or buy light-blocking curtains.
Some people also find it useful to use a white noise machine, headphones with a quiet but relaxing soundtrack, or other tools to help get into a napping state of mind.
Take Some Time to Wake Up
Don’t jump up from your nap and head out the door. Give yourself a few minutes to wake up and feel revived. That post-nap time is a great time to stretch a little, do a simple breathing exercise, or otherwise just enjoy the temporary slowdown in your day a nap provides.
If you’re not sure napping is right for you, give it a try. If you’re feeling an afternoon slump, tired when driving, or not as energetic as usual, a nap may help you get that boost of energy that enables you to get the work done and stay awake behind the wheel.