We’ve all nodded off during a boring movie. Or fallen asleep on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner. But rather than letting a nap just happen to you, a little bit of nap planning will make your naps even more productive. (Yes, we just said napping involves some work. But trust us. You’ll thank us after you wake up.)
- First, don’t feel guilty about napping. Even a six minute nap has been shown to improve memory recall, reaction times & problem solving. And feeling guilty leads to low-level anxiety, which will make your nap less productive.
- Try to schedule your nap before 4pm. If you fall asleep later than that, your human circadian rhythms will make it more likely that you’ll fall into a slow-wave sleep, which will leave you groggy when you wake up. (And make it harder to go to sleep later that night.)
- Go to bed. And close the blinds. Don’t let yourself nod off just anywhere. If you’re at home, make an effort to head to bed. You’ll avoid an achy back from the couch, which doesn’t have proper support. And darkness helps produce melatonin, which will help you fall asleep more quickly.
- Use a blanket. When you nap, your metabolism falls, and thus your body temperature. You don’t want to wake up with a chill.
- Decide ahead of time what kind of nap you want to take. Then set the timer on your phone to keep it to the right length. A five minute nap will help get rid of simple sleepiness. A 10-20 minute nap increases alertness, stamina & motor skills for the rest of the day. A 20-40 minute nap helps process the mental tasks you were undertaking before you went to sleep. A 40-90 minute nap may include a period of REM sleep, which is nature’s ultimate reset button – you’ll awake feeling as if it’s a completely new day.
- Feed your nap. If you know you’re going to nap in the afternoon, eat sleep-friendly foods for lunch, including: turkey & walnuts (which contain tryptophan,) dairy products & leafy greens (calcium helps body manufacture melatonin,) salad (lettuce includes lactucarium which has a sedative effect similar to opium,) and fish (contains B6 vitamins which help produce melatonin and serotonin.) And of course you should avoid caffeine.