Tips for a Better Cat Nap
How come napping seems to only be socially accepted for young children? Why is it that adults who nap are often looked at with a sneer of derision and judgement? It’s not right!
This is especially true when you consider groundbreaking figures like Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Leonardo Di Vinci, who all shared at least this one thing in common: they frequently took a midday nap!
Recent research has confirmed what these historical figures already knew to be true—napping is good for your health, mood, creativity, and mental capacity. Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide for everything you need to know about napping, so you can shed the nap stigma and sleep better.
The Health Benefits of Napping
“Napping should not be frowned upon at the office or make you feel guilty at home,” writes Dr. James B. Maas in his book Power Sleep, “It should have the status of daily exercise.” A psychologist and sleep expert at Cornell, Maas makes a strong case for the health benefits of a good nap. Science doesn’t lie. Below you’ll find just a few ways a good nap can improve your health.
A recent study by NASA researchers found that a 26-minute flight nap improved alertness in their pilots by 54% and enhanced overall performance by 34%. Although people commonly avoid mid-day naps because they feel groggy upon awakening, it only takes about ten minutes to start feeling refreshed.
Sleep experts agree that stepping back from a project or taking a rest while working on creative endeavors refreshes the mind and allows for a greater flow of ideas. If you feel like you hit a creative block, take a nap and see what happens.
Benefits Heart Health
A recent study conducted in Greece found that those who took a 30-minute nap each day had a 37% lower risk of suffering a heart-related death.
Taking a test later today? Try taking a 20-minute nap first. Naps can improve memory and recall. During sleep the mind processes, discards and organizes information it has received during the day. Taking a nap not only will help improve your memory but your ability to learn new tasks, see patterns and recall words as well.
Studies have shown that by napping, we can reduce the amount of stress hormones present in the body. By starting the habit of taking a daily nap, you can reduce your overall stress levels, improve your focus and emotional stability.
Napping Dos and Don’ts
Whether you’re temporarily sleep deprived or find yourself consistently needing to counter afternoon drowsiness, naps can fully recharge your batteries. Not all naps, however, are created equal. Here are some dos and don’ts for making the most of a midday snooze:
Pick a Strategic Time – The best time to nap depends on when you last woke up. Typically, you will want to nap after about six to seven hours, so if you wake up at 7 AM, you ideally want to nap around 2 PM. Keep in mind that you can nap to make up for lost sleep, or to prepare for a night when you know you won’t sleep well. If you’re napping preventatively, take a quick nap six to seven hours before you plan to sleep for longer.
Strive for the Afternoon – If you find yourself getting groggy in the afternoon, it’s not because you’re overworked or under-rested. The body’s natural circadian rhythms cause us to feel fatigued around mid-afternoon. In fact, there is even research suggesting that a brief afternoon nap is part of our natural programming (even if they’re not part of our normal schedule). For most people, the afternoon is both the easiest time to fall asleep and the best time to recoup some rest.
Pick the Right Spot – If you’re able to control where you nap, make sure it’s a space conducive to sleeping in the daytime. Pick a room that is dark, quiet, and cool. If you can’t find the perfect conditions, consider using an eye mask, earplugs, or a white noise machine.
Some well-known international companies, including Google, Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s, Procter & Gamble, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Nike realize the value of short power naps for improving their workers’ performance while on the job. As such, they’ve invested in good sleep spaces. To encourage napping, each of these companies has rooms or sleep pods set aside specifically for employees to take quick power naps during their break periods.
Set an Alarm (For Less Time Than You Think) – When you’re feeling especially tired, it’s easy to fall asleep for a nap and wake up a lot later than you intended. Make sure you set an alarm before you begin winding down. Research has shown that the best naps last for 10-20 minutes.
Tempting as it may be to steal another 10 minutes (or an extra hour), it won’t leave you feeling more refreshed. Naps that last longer than 20 minutes can put you into a deep sleep that’s harder to wake from and contribute to reduced performance after napping. Furthermore, a recent study by the American College of Cardiology found a correlation between taking longer naps (generally over 40 minutes) and obesity, diabetes, higher blood pressure, and increased cholesterol levels.
Force Sleep to Come – For some people, it’s a real challenge to nap successfully. If you’re one of those people and none of the tips above seem to help, don’t force the issue. Try to get better sleep at night, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and getting some physical activity during the day. There are other ways to fight fatigue besides lying down for a nap where you’ll never fall asleep.
Depend Entirely on Naps – Some people must nap as part of their sleep routine. For most of us, though, it’s an occasional occurrence. If you find yourself napping more than usual, or wanting to because of routine fatigue, it could be a sign you’re not sleeping well at night. You also shouldn’t try to rely on naps as a cure for insomnia. For optimal physical and mental health, you should ideally get eight hours of sustained sleep each night. If you’re not, it could be a sign you need a new mattress, or your nightly sleep routine needs adjustment.
Pick the Wrong Time – If you drank a big cup of coffee an hour ago, it’s going to be a lot harder to nap. Try to plan when, where, and how you’ll take a nap at least a few hours in advance. If you have kids or others around your house, let them know you’re trying to nap so you won’t be disturbed. You’ll probably find it easiest to fall asleep between 2 PM and 3 PM, which is when your body clock naturally tends to make you feel a bit sleepy. You’ll already have eaten lunch, so your blood sugar and energy level will automatically start to drop. Trying to nap earlier might be difficult, since your body might not be ready to sleep. Napping after 4 PM might interfere with your being able to fall asleep when it’s time to go to bed for the night.
Pro Hacks for the Ultimate Napping
Now that you’ve mastered the basics of napping, here’s some more advanced techniques and tricks to amp up your nap game.
When You’re Especially Tired, Try a Full Sleep Cycle Nap
The average person’s sleep cycle is about 90-minutes, so a full-cycle 90-minute nap will allow you to go into the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. According to the National Institute of Health, REM sleep is when dreaming occurs, as well as when both the brain and body are reenergized. It’s thought that REM sleep is also associated with learning capabilities, memory storage, mood balancing and enhanced creativity. Assuming you can find the time, a full sleep cycle nap can help you offset the effects of not getting enough sleep.
The two best options for catching up on sleep are to take either a short 20-minute nap or a 90-minute full sleep cycle nap, but nap-times of durations between should be avoided. The choice depends upon how much time is available and the amount of lost sleep you’re trying to offset.
Try Taking a Caffeine Nap
Contrary to what you might think, caffeine can play a role in taking and awakening from a short nap. Have a quick cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage followed by a 20-minute nap, which is about the amount of time it takes for caffeine to have an effect on the brain and body. Shortly after you awaken, the caffeine will kick in and you’ll feel energized and refreshed. It’s a great way to recharge in just a few minutes.
Even a Quick, 10-Minute Time Out Can Help
If you don’t have the time or aren’t in a place that’s convenient to take a nap, taking five or 10 minutes for a super-short power nap can help when you’re feeling sleep deprived. Following a night of disrupted sleep, these few minutes spent resting can help you to remain alert through the rest of the day.
Spend a Few Minutes Outdoors
Another alternative for getting an energy boost when you’re tired and stressed but taking an afternoon nap isn’t an option is to go for a brief outdoor walk in the sunshine. Most peoples’ core body temperatures drop during early to-mid afternoon. The drop in temperature causes the pineal gland in the brain to produce melatonin, which is a naturally occurring sleep-inducing chemical that controls the body’s internal clock. Spending a bit of time in the sunlight will halt the production of melatonin and make you feel less drowsy.
Know When to Skip Naps
Napping isn’t necessarily for everyone. If you can’t fall asleep during the day, consistently wake up from a nap feeling groggy or have difficulty falling asleep at night after a daytime snooze, you’re probably better off not taking afternoon naps. As noted earlier, insomniacs should also avoid daytime napping. As an alternative, try some meditation techniques, which can provide many of the same benefits as napping. Just sit back, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax your muscles for 10 or 15 minutes.
Sleep on the Right Mattress
Being ready to take on the day starts with getting a good night’s sleep. That begins with sleeping on a mattress that’s the right size and comfort level for your unique body shape and lifestyle. The knowledgeable sleep consultants a Sit ‘n Sleep are on duty seven days a week to help you choose the perfect sleep system. Stop by one of our 38 conveniently located Southern California Mattress Superstores – we’ll have you sleeping and napping well in no time at all!
Stop the Stigma, Start the Nap!
Throughout Latin America there is a daily, time-honored tradition called the siesta. If you’ve even been on vacation in a Latin American country and found that none of the shops were open after lunch time, it’s because the entire country has settled down for a well-deserved nap. It’s an essential part of the culture and a vital part of a happy life. In the United States, however, where we’ve got a very different relationship to work— some might say a toxic one— we must sneak in our naps or add the word “power” to describe so it seems more connected to getting things done. So many of us take naps discreetly, trying to hide the practice.
At Sit ‘n Sleep, we believe that American nappers should come out of the shadows and be proud that they’ve chosen to take a 20-minute daily break to improve their health, happiness, and even productivity. In short: be proud, lie down!