Five Tips to Help You Nap Like a Pro

The world is in the grips of an epidemic of mass proportions.  It’s called sleep deprivation.  As many as 50% of us are getting well less than the seven to eight hours of sleep that are recommended each night.  How do we battle that?  

If you’re unable to ensure that you get your full amount of sleep at night, the next best thing is a nap in the afternoon.  Here are some tips to ensure you get the most from your nap:

  1. Learn when to nap.  If you work a typical 9-5 schedule, the best time to nap is between 1 p.m and 3 p.m.  Whatever your schedule, however, be sure you don’t nap too “late” in the day, as that nap could lead to you not sleeping well at night.
  2. Learn how much to nap.  Napping is a delicate art.  If you nap too little, it won’t help you.  But, if you nap too much, you’ll wake up a drooling, foggy mess and you won’t be able to sleep that night.  The ideal power nap is less than 30 minutes.  That will allow you to wake before your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage starts.  REM sleep usually hits about every 45 minutes while you sleep, and if you wake during that period, you’ll find it very hard to wake fully.  This is called sleep inertia.  A good guide is that if you’re dreaming while napping, you’ve napped too long.  Many times individuals don’t even fall asleep for a good nap, but rather lay and rest for 20 minutes.  You’ll be surprised how much even this can help!
  3. Learn where to nap.  The best place to nap is somewhere cool and dark.  Turn the temperature down and pull the blinds.  Also, don’t try napping in a chair if you want to get the full benefit of sleep.  Get horizontal!
  4.  Learn whether you should nap.  Napping is not for everyone.  If you have insomnia at night, then napping could be counter-productive and lead to a cycle where you need a nap every day because you don’t sleep well at night.  If you suffer from insomnia, ask your doctor whether he or she recommends that you nap.
  5. Get over your guilt. Many people, particularly Americans, think that naps are a sign of laziness.  They aren’t.  In fact, the burst of energy and clear thinking you can get from a nap may make you even more productive in the afternoon than you would have been otherwise.

Here’s a bonus tip: since the best time to nap is in the middle of the day when most people are awake, you may find that it’s too loud (either from outside or inside noise) to sleep.  One way to combat this problem is a good set of earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.  Another possibility is a white noise machine or app for your phone.