Master the art of the power nap

power napA 20-minute power nap can reset your system, improve your alertness, increase your motor performance and give you a spurt of energy. It can do everything a cup of coffee or an energy drink can do – but without interfering with your sleep later at night (as long as you don’t nap too close to bedtime).

Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of your nap:

When to nap

Experts say the best time for a nap is midday between 1pm and 3pm. If you sleep after 4pm, you risk throwing off your night-time sleep schedule and reducing your sleep quality.

How long should you nap?

That depends what you want to achieve from your nap. Different periods of napping can help your energy and brain function in different ways. According to WebMD, these are the naptime breakdowns:

  • 20-minute nap: Good for alertness and motor skills, such as typing, playing the piano, sewing, etc.
  • 30 to 60-minute nap: Good for decision-making skills and memory tasks, like leading meetings or recalling directions.
  • 60 to 90-minute nap: Helpful in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems.

If you need a quick burst of energy, don’t nap longer than 40 minutes. While you may think that the longer you sleep, the better the benefits, the truth is that if you enter a deep sleep, it can leave you feeling drowsy, groggy and generally worse off than before you took a nap. This is called ‘sleep inertia’.

Tips for napping well

Some people struggle to nap, but following these tips can make it easier to catch a quick snooze when you need it:

  • Be consistent: Keep a regular nap schedule to train your body to be ready to nap around the same time every day.
  • Keep it quick: Set the alarm on your phone for 20 minutes or less so you don’t risk oversleeping and waking up groggy instead of rejuvenated.
  • Use sound cues: Create a relaxation playlist to give your brain the cue that it’s time to rest.
  • Block out the light: Napping is easier in a darkroom – blocking out light helps you to fall asleep more quickly. If you can’t darken the space, consider using an eye mask.
  • Stay warm: Your body temperature drops while you snooze so be sure to keep blankets nearby to stay cosy.
  • Drink your coffee before you power nap: Caffeine can decrease your brain’s memory performance, gets you more wired than energised and you risk making more mistakes, but if you really feel the need for an extra caffeine boost, take a shot of espresso (or drink a cool cup of coffee) before your 20-minute power nap. Coffee takes approximately 20 minutes to travel through your system and can provide a little kick when you’re waking from your nap. Coffee can affect your quality of sleep at night, so try not to indulge after 2pm in the afternoon.
  • Sleep on a comfy bed: You don’t want to wake up from a nap with a crick in your neck or a sore back, so ensure you nap somewhere with adequate support for your spine and head.

For more expert sleep advice, visit our Sleep Blog.

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