Napping 101: How To Nap Without Messing With Your Nightly ZZZs
It’s official: life is hectic AF yet again. Honestly, sometimes all we want to do is take a nap, but the kinda nap where we wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle life. We want to avoid the kinda nap where you re-enter civilization feeling groggy or, even worse, you slept for too long, and the day has suddenly disappeared… #oops!
So, in an effort to help you guys nap like a pro, we got in touch with our go-to sleep expert and Founder of Nurture2Sleep: Julie Mallon. She filled us in on how to take a nap and the real tea on how long a nap should *actually* be. Spoiler: it’s WAY shorter than you think.
Is Napping Actually Good for You?
There are so many myths surrounding napping, so we had to strip it back and ask Julie if she would even recommend napping. The answer? “Yes, however, you’ve got to be smart; otherwise, it could interfere with your nighttime sleep,” says Julie.
Julie explains, “The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults should have seven to nine hours of sleep per night. It’s important to note that getting less than the recommended amount creates a “sleep debt” that can accumulate over several days. To reset the sleep debt, naps can be helpful.”
She continues, “However, the benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be underestimated or compromised. Taking a nap too late in the afternoon can impact an essential component of your nighttime sleep, which is known as your ‘sleep pressure.’ This means that if you go to bed and your sleep pressure is low, falling asleep can be more difficult and can result in nighttime wakings.”
The Benefits of Napping
Okay, so now we’ve established it’s good to nap (hallelujah), Julie outlines the MAJOR benefits, “Naps can reduce fatigue and increase alertness while also improving your mood and performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory.”
Wait, what… can napping improve your memory? Julie confirms, “Many studies have shown that sleep plays an important role in your memory function, specifically how we retain information and memories. A restorative nap can help you remember things you learned earlier in that day just as much as a full night’s sleep. Napping can also help your brain retain essential motor skills better (the function that involves specific movements of the body’s muscles to perform a certain task), as well as improve sensory perception and verbal recall. This includes performance in the gym and other skill-based activities.”
And it doesn’t stop there, “Not only can napping help you remember things you have just learned, but it can help your brain draw better connections with new information. In one study, nappers found it easier to put together the information they learned and experienced earlier in the day.”
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How to Take a Nap Like a Pro
As napping queens, we’re eternally grateful that our years of napping have been put to good use. However, as Julie reminds us, there’s such a thing as a good nap and a bad nap. Here are Julie’s essential tips for grade-A napping:
1. Don’t Nap for Too Long
We’ve all been there – you go to take a quick nap, and instead of thirty minutes, hours have passed, and suddenly, your day is a mess. Julie warns against long naps altogether, stating, “A nap as short as ten minutes can be beneficial, but always limit your nap to under 30 minutes, so you don’t wake up feeling even more tired. That grogginess you can feel after a nap is called sleep inertia. The longer you nap, the more likely you’ll experience the feeling of grogginess.”
If you want specifics, Julie notes that “According to NASA , the perfect nap time is 26 mins.” We like to set the alarm for 30 minutes from when we’re ready to nap to avoid any mishaps!
2. Know When to Nap
According to Julie, there’s also such a thing as “a good time nap time,” depending on the outcome you want. Julie explains, “If you’ve got a busy day and are feeling tired, but you want to boost your creativity, take a late morning nap as this will help you achieve more REM sleep, also known as our dream sleep when our creative juices are refueled.”
She continues, “However, if your body is feeling fatigued and you feel mentally and physically drained, take an afternoon nap to achieve a deeper sleep. But make sure it’s no later than three or four pm so that it doesn’t interfere with your nighttime sleep.” She concludes, “timing is everything.”
3. Meditate Before you Nap
“Before you take a nap, especially if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, take the time to meditate pre-nap. This will help empty your brain so you can fall asleep faster and more peacefully,” says Julie. If you need some inspo, she recommends using meditation apps like Headspace or Calm.
4. Create the Perfect Environment
“Creating a good napping environment is so important,” says Julie. Okay, so what does this look like? Julie explains, “A cool, dark, quiet place is the perfect setting for a nap.” Just remember to set the alarm, so you don’t fall into a deep sleep.
5. Take a Nappuccino
As ice latte STANS, when Julie uttered the term “nappuccino,” we had to know more. She explains, “A caffeine nap or a “nappuccino” consists of consuming a serving of caffeine and then taking a short nap. Caffeine naps help reduce the effects of sleep inertia, like grogginess and a low mood. Because caffeine takes about 30 minutes to kick in fully, it means that when you wake up from your short nap, you’ll experience alertness from both the nap and the caffeine.”
However, she does note that “not everyone can tolerate caffeine, and too much caffeine can cause unpleasant side effects or disrupt nighttime sleep. Talk with your health care provider if you have questions about caffeine consumption.” With that said, she does recommend a power nap over caffeine due to the restorative results of a good nap.
6. Make Sure You’re Actually Tired
How many times have you said, “I’m so tired,” just out of habit? Perhaps, you’re just tired of what you’re doing, but are you actually tired? Julie says this assessment is crucial, especially since we spend so much time on our laptops and in front of screens, which can make us feel tired. According to Julie, “the EMF (Electric Magnetic Field) from our blue light devices can make us feel sleepier than we actually are.” Her solution? “Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a ten-minute break from your screen and go for a quick walk. The movement and exposure to natural light will help you feel more alert and less groggy.”
We don’t know about you, but this has made us want to take a nap. BRB, in the meantime, check out one of Julie’s essential sleep hacks.