There are times in a man’s life when he may find himself tired during the workday, slow, and craving a nap. If done properly, a nap can improve mood and energy levels. But, if done incorrectly, a nap can leave you groggy and disoriented. These 5 tips to take a proper nap will help you boost performance throughout the day, so you can focus on being your best self.
Roughly 85% of mammalian species are known as polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep several times throughout the day. Humans, however, are monophasic sleepers, where our days are divided into two distinct periods: awake and asleep. (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping)
It’s unknown if we are meant to be polyphasic or monophasic sleepers. Nonetheless, there are certain cultures in the world where napping during the day is a deeply engrained tradition. In China, for example, napping after lunch for one hour is a “Constitutional right”. In Spain, businesses close midday for “siesta”, where time is spent eating lunch with family and friends, then napping. (1)
There are some notorious nappers throughout history including: Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, and Napoleon.
Perhaps they were onto something, and maybe we can use naps to our advantage and success as well.
According to the Mayo Clinic, taking a nap during the day can reduce fatigue, improve mood and memory, increase relaxation, and increase alertness. (2)
A 1995 NASA study showed that subjects who took a 25.8-minute nap increased performance, alertness, and reaction time by 34%, compared to non-nap subjects. (3)
There are right and wrong ways to take a nap. These 5 tips to take a proper nap will put you on the path toward increased performance and alertness. Who knows, maybe naps can help unlock your inner Edison or Da Vinci.
1. Get the Right Length
Length is critical for an effective nap.
Sleeping too much will cause what’s known as sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the period after a nap where you feel disoriented and groggy. Moreover, a long nap can begin to affect nighttime sleep patterns, making it difficult to get a restful night of sleep when it’s time.
So, what is the optimal nap time?
According to the Better Sleep Council, try to keep naps between 15 and 40 minutes. (4)
In 2016, the American College of Cardiology indicated that taking naps longer than 40 minutes is associated with higher risks of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health problems such as: high blood pressure, excess fat, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease. (5)
So, stick to the plan and don’t go over 40 minutes, 30 to play it safe.
2. Establish the Right Time
Aside from taking too long of nap, taking a nap too late in the day can also negatively affect the quality of nighttime sleep.
As a general rule, most people who wake up between 5:30 and 8 am will experience the greatest benefits of taking a nap between 1:30 and 2:30 pm.
Any nap past 3 pm risks affecting nighttime sleep.
If you rise early at 4 am or have an irregular sleep schedule, check out Dr. Sara Mednick’s “Nap Wheel”, which shows the precise time you should take a nap based on your wake-up time. (6)
3. Set the Right Conditions
Companies like Google and Zappos allow their employees to nap during the day.
Google has even instituted the use of high tech “nap pods”, which reduce ambient light, decrease outside stimuli, and recline the user into optimal resting posture. (7)
Unfortunately, not all of us have “nap pods” at home or work, but it is important to set the conditions for an optimal nap.
The best nap conditions include a dark, quiet room, where you can lie in a restful position with your head and neck supported. The temperature should not be too hot or cold. Get as comfortable as you can, taking your shoes off if possible.
There are times when idyllic napping locations aren’t possible, like in an airplane. In that case, try supplementing your location with earplugs and a sleep mask to reduce light and noise.
4. Relax and Set an Alarm
It can be hard to relax enough in order to take a nap. Racing thoughts about what needs to be done is stressful and can prevent restful sleep.
Set an alarm so you don’t oversleep. If you’re worried that you might press snooze, leave the alarm across the room on loud so you’re forced to get up when it goes off.
Relax, clear your thoughts and focus on your breath. On average, the subjects in the above NASA study fell asleep within 5.6 minutes.
It might sound counterintuitive but pairing coffee with a nap can lead to high levels of alertness.
According to a Japanese study published in 2003, pairing caffeine with a nap is a highly effective form of increasing performance and combating sleepiness. (8)
The initial effects of caffeine begin to kick in around 20 minutes, with full absorption occurring within 45 minutes. (9)
So, by drinking a cup of coffee immediately before you take a nap, your body will begin experiencing the caffeine effects right around the time you wake up, providing a double shot of alertness against afternoon drowsiness.
If you can, take some time out of your day to relax and get some rest. Just remember to follow these 5 tips to take a proper nap before you do.
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
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