Napping, like eating leafy greens and regular exercise, is generally acknowledged to be an important component of a healthy life. Unfortunately, busy schedules and a culture that stigmatizes napping have caused many Americans to abandon the afternoon siesta. In honor of National Nap Day (March 13th), here’s how to build an effective napping practice and unlock mental clarity, better memory and greater efficiency.
Set a regular nap schedule. The most effective nap time for most people is mid-afternoon. Try to schedule a regular 30 minute time out so you can catch some ZZZ’s and avoid the mid-afternoon energy crash.
Keep it quick. Research published in the journal Sleep has shown that the ideal length of time for a daytime nap is 10-30 minutes. Sleeping longer may result in grogginess and sleep inertia.
Make a relaxing environment. If your company has nap pods set up, by all means take advantage of them! For road warriors, get a eye mask to block out light. Earplugs or a nap time playlist can make many environments comfortable. Studies have shown that it takes longer to fall asleep sitting up, so if you can, find a place to stretch out.
Time your caffeine intake. Caffeine can inhibit the body’s natural ability to sleep (that’s the point, right?!), so giving your body enough time to process your last cup of joe before nap time is important. A recent British study has shown that having your afternoon pick-me-up right before a 20 minute nap will have better effects than coffee or napping alone.
Set an alarm. Set a duration to nap and stick to it. This will prevent grogginess, and training your body for regular afternoon naps will help you fall asleep and wake up refreshed.