Not getting enough sleep at night is a common problem for adults and students alike. It’s hard to fit in the recommended 8 hours of sleep between work, studying, taking care of kids, and endless phone distractions. Sleep is vital to enhancing your mental performance, helping to improve focus, memory, mood, and alertness. Plus, it helps reduce signs of aging. If getting more sleep at night isn’t an option, an afternoon power nap can help increase productivity. See how you can get the perfect nap in 7 easy steps so you’re ready for what the rest of the day has in store.
Nap in the early afternoon
Choosing the right time to take your nap is crucial to maximizing your energy levels without compromising your sleep at night. Sleep experts recommend taking a nap in the early afternoon between 1-3pm.
Keep it short
A nap not only allows you to get the necessary zzz’s to be functional, but it can also have various benefits depending on the length. A shorter 10min nap will give you an energy boost and improve cognitive function. 20min will improve alertness, increase productivity, and leave you in a good mood. 90min naps, the length of a sleep cycle, helps boost creativity.
Pro Tip: Avoid napping between 30-60 min because you might wake up in the middle of your REM cycle, making you feel groggy and disoriented. There are 4 stages in a sleep cycle: 1, 2, 3, and REM. You enter a deep sleep in stages 3, and you start dreaming during REM with brain activity becoming more intense. Learn more about the REM cycle and the science behind what makes you tired here.
Create a serene space
Once you set the timer for your nap, make sure you are in a comfortable environment. Keep the room dark, cool, and quiet. To reduce light, pull down the window shades or use an eye mask. Sleep experts have proven that 65ºF is the best temperature for sleeping, as warmer temperatures will decrease your quality of sleep. If the people around you are being too noisy, put on a pair of headphones.
Relax your mind
Napping can seem impossible when your mind is racing at 1pm with the many things left on your to-do list. However, clearing your mind is vital to taking advantage of your short mid-day break. One trick to help you quickly fall asleep is to follow a progressive relaxation technique. Tense and relax each muscle in your body for 5 seconds, starting at your toes and working your way up to your head. You’ll be asleep in no time.
Clearing your mind is crucial to letting your body rest. Meditation and other breathing exercises are also great ways to unwind. These forms of relaxation are beneficial on their own, so you’ll still reap various benefits even if they don’t help you fall asleep.
I should drink what?! Now this tip might sound weird and contradictory, but stay with me. You’ll actually wake up feeling more refreshed if you consume caffeine before taking a power nap. Here's the science behind it: Your brain has a chemical called adenosine that makes you tired when present in large quantities. The caffeine competes with adenosine to attach to the adenosine receptors, which helps make you feel less tired. The trick is, caffeine generally takes up to 45 minutes for 99% of the caffeine to be absorbed by the body, so it should not prevent you from falling asleep. However, the caffeine should start to kick in by the time your alarm goes off, making it that much easier to resist hitting the snooze button. Your nap reduces the amount of adenosine in your brain, and combined with the adenosine blocking caffeine, you should wake up feeling refreshed and alert. For a 100% natural and convenient caffeine kick try taking a smooth, long lasting energy shot like GO BIG right before your nap.
Try napping upright
How you sleep is also very important. While napping laying down is the most comfortable way, the difficulty and discomfort of napping while sitting up can help you take shorter, more impactful naps. Fun fact: Buddhist monks are known for sleeping upright.
Use a light blanket
Sleep with a light blanket to make sure you can easily wake up from your power nap. It may be tempting to snuggle under your comforter or use the heaviest, softest blanket you own, but that will make it even more difficult to get up and continue with your day.
Now you can stop Googling “How can I get more energy?” during your afternoon slump. Just remember these key tips: Nap for 20 minutes during the early afternoon in a quiet, dark room. Don’t forget to relax your mind and have some caffeine before your nap so you wake up clear and focused, ready to take on the rest of your day! Happy napping!
- 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#377c292b1465. Accessed 17 July 2019.
- Matt Walker: Sleep Is Your Superpower | TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_sleep_is_your_superpower?language=en. Accessed 17 July 2019.
- Napping: Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Adults - Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319. Accessed 17 July 2019.
- Stromberg, Joseph. “Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better than Coffee or Naps Alone.” Vox, 28 Aug. 2014, https://www.vox.com/2014/8/28/6074177/coffee-naps-caffeine-science.
- Research, Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition. Pharmacology of Caffeine. National Academies Press (US), 2001. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223808/.
- The Art of Taking a Nap…the Right Way. https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-art-of-taking-a-napthe-right-way/. Accessed 17 July 2019.
- “Understanding Sleep Cycles.” Sleep.Org, https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/. Accessed 17 July 2019.
- Why Do Buddhist Monks Sleep Upright?22 June 2009. news.bbc.co.uk, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8112619.stm.