Start Hacking Your Naps With These 4 Tips

Wood-crafted birds with sleep Z's

Napping is just as important to adults as it is to kids. Just ask Dr. Sara C. Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. If authoring a book on why naps are important to adults doesn’t convince you, maybe her credentials as Assistant Professor of Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside will. Or the fact that she’s a Harvard Ph.D.

The big idea here is that naps are a good thing, and far from childish as some may believe, and that there’s quite a bit of research to back this idea up.

Speaking of books, in Tony Schwartz’s Be Excellent at Anything he talks about the importance of sleep and how few of us pay attention to our bodies’ need for activity-rest cycles, resulting in overall sluggishness and even feelings of disenfranchisement at work.

Who would have thought that naps were such a big deal? Schwartz’s focus, The Energy Project, has worked with corporations around the country and the world to help institute a better culture around sleep schedules, most notably by adding naps to the stuffiest of corporate cultures, all for the better.

Naps are a great thing. Done correctly, they can refresh you and help you get more done in the day. There’s more to napping successfully than just kicking back in your office chair, though. Sleep schedules and naps are vital to being productive and can even affect how you feel about your job. Knowing this, it’s probably a good time to brush up on your napping skills so you can feel better, work more effectively, and overall be a better you.

Read on to find out about how to make the most out of your naps.

Why Nap?

We’re conditioned today to see naps as something for the lazy, and most of us only partake in a nap the day after a long night or after a heavy bout of yard work. Instead, we should all see naps as a normal part of our sleep cycle. Our bodies weren’t meant for the schedule of sleeping and waking that most of us currently follow.

Most animals have two periods of “intense sleepiness” during every 24-hour period. If you’re like most people and only sleep once per day, this leaves you with a very sleepy portion of your day to struggle through. While this varies, the average person is “intensely sleepy” between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and again around 10 hours later, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Two women napping on stone bench in park

To keep our minds and bodies working as they should, we really should be napping once per day. Most animals in the world other than humans take naps in one way or another, so by enforcing the prohibition of napping, we’re robbing ourselves of productivity and overall good feelings.

Even NASA agrees that naps are important, and by their math, you can boost productivity by nearly 35% just by taking a 26-minute nap. Hey, if a bunch of rocket scientists recommend napping, there must be something to it, right?

More on length of naps in a minute, but for now, let’s look at 4 ways to nap hard.

1. Caffeine Naps

If you only take one idea from this post (other than that naps are good), make it this one. While most people wouldn’t associate caffeine and naps, these two foes of sleepiness can join forces to get you feeling great in a pretty short amount of time.

Coffee mug with clock face in it

Without getting too much into the science of what caffeine does to your brain, a caffeine nap basically works like this: It takes anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes for your body to fully metabolize the caffeine in a cup of coffee, which means you can down a cup of joe and immediately settle in for a nap.

Lie down and follow the rest of the tips in this list for about 15 minutes. Any longer and you can fall into what’s called “sleep inertia.”

After 15 minutes, you’ll feel somewhat refreshed from the nap and your caffeine kick will just be starting. You’ll get the benefit of both a short nap and immediate caffeine, and your tiredness won’t know what hit it.

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2. Nap the Right Amount of Time

Time means everything when napping. Nap for too short a period of time and you’re not doing any good. Nap for too long and you’re getting into REM sleep and that whole sleep inertia thing.

The perfect nap length is a very personal thing, but for it to be considered a nap you should sleep for anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Any longer and you may wake up more tired than when you started.

A common amount of time to nap is 20 minutes, and research has shown that 20 to 30 minutes of napping will give you an increase in short-term alertness without a groggy feeling afterward.

3. Always Use a Blanket

Linus from “Peanuts” had a good idea in keeping his blanket handy, especially if he was looking to take a nap. There is research that shows a blanket gives you a feeling of security and comfort – two things you need to nap well.

Statue of Linus character from Peanuts comic strip

Also, your metabolism slows when you sleep, so think of using a blanket as pre-planning for your post-nap comfort.

4. The Darker the Better

Animals don’t like sleeping when it’s light out. One of the reasons you feel jet lag is that your brain is trying to align its internal clock with what day and night are in the new time zone instead of what it feels they should be. This happens to a lesser degree when you try to nap in a bright area.

Crocheted sleep mask with winking eye

Studies have shown that “light pollution” may be giving us all miniature cases of jet lag on a regular basis, and this applies to napping as well.

If you want your brain to let you rest, make it dark. Draw the curtains, shut the lights, and best of all, use a sleep mask when there’s light you can’t eliminate.

By following these tips and understanding your body’s need for napping, you can get more out of each day, even with a nap included.

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