Timing is key
Plan your nap for the time when your body is naturally sleepier and you’re more likely to fall asleep.
Everybody, no matter if they live in a warm or cold climate or if they’ve eaten a big meal, experiences these subtle changes at bedtime and, to a lesser extent, in the afternoon — usually around six to eight hours after waking. For most people, “prime napping time falls between 1 and 3 p.m.,”
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The National Sleep Foundation recommends a snooze lasting 20 to 30 minutes. That’s long enough to grab a dose of that energizing Stage 2 sleep, without the risk of being plunged into the slow-wave sleep that can make you groggy.
A famous 1994 NASA study found that long-haul pilots who napped for 25.8 minutes were 50% more alert than their non napping counterparts and performed 34% better on certain tasks.
Improperly timed naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep, experts say. Don’t sleep too long or too late in the day, especially if you have trouble falling asleep at night.
Different phases of sleep confer different benefits on the brain and body, so you can actually hack your nap by adjusting when you nap and for how long.
The first 20 minutes of your nap are spent in Stage 2 sleep, which provides energy and alertness. Stay asleep longer and you’ll enter slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is when the brain begins to process memories and information, and then rapid eye movement (REM), the creativity-boosting dream phase.
You can train yourself to become better at napping
it gets easier and more fun the more you do it, like riding a bike, but horizontal.
Once your brain and body get in the habit, you’ll learn to drift off quickly and even wake up at the perfect time without an alarm.
Since caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, almost exactly the recommended nap length, down your latte just before lying down.
The caffeine will act as a natural alarm, waking you up refreshed and ready to focus on the next activity. A 2003 Japanese study found that caffeine naps were more effective at combating daytime sleepiness than non-caffeine naps.
The main barrier to falling asleep at nap time is an overactive mind
“Nap Bishop” Tricia Hersey recommends journaling before you lie down, to process whatever is nagging you. Or try a guided meditation like Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, to relieve stress and give your brain a break.
An airplane nap kit, complete with sleep mask, neck pillow, and earplugs, can enable you to create the right conditions for sleep almost anywhere.
The most natural time to take a nap, based on our circadian rhythms, is in the afternoon sometime between 2 and 4pm.
The ideal time to snooze is when a nap would contain a good balance of slow wave and REM sleep. This balance typically occurs 6 to 8 hours after waking.
Willpower, memory, judgement, and attention all suffer when you are sleep deprived.
You drop things, crave junk food sugar, overeat, gain weight. You’re more irritable, negative, emotionally reactive, forgetful and your ability to connect meaningfully to other people shuts down.
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