It’s been a long day, and all you want to do is catch some sleep. It’s a significant change from when you were a little kid, and the last thing you wanted was to take time away from playtime. For many adults, a nap is the most appealing thing in the world.
Maybe it’s the increasingly hectic and stressful feelings of everyday life, or perhaps it’s something biological—but for one reason or another, more and more people are working naps into their daily routine.
A question often raised is this: Does this short-term sleep really boost your energy, and what makes it different from regular nightly sleep? It turns out that naps may have profound health benefits if you take them strategically.
Naps: Refreshing the Mind and Body
It can be hard to find time in a day to nap, so how long do you really need to sleep to feel the benefits?
It turns out that only 15 to 20 minutes of sleep may be enough to make a difference, but up to 30 minutes has the most significant restorative benefits.
However, napping for any longer can lead to grogginess when you wake up and interrupt your sleep cycle at night. The ideal length will vary per person, but a nap can have short and long-term benefits.
When you wake up, you should feel your mind clearing and your memory getting sharper. This can reap benefits in reaction time, judgment, information processing, learning, and job performance.
Your mood might improve, giving you more patience and better interpersonal skills. You’re also likely to have more energy to take you through the rest of the day and to accomplish your goals before the night’s sleep.
How Naps Can Affect Your Circadian Rhythms
Have you ever had a hard time getting back into a regular sleep cycle after disruptions? This might be because your circadian rhythms have been disrupted.
These internally driven cycles run on a 24-hour clock, called the master circadian clock. It synchronizes and controls your sleep cycles, keeping in time with the sun’s cycle of rising and falling. This makes it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up in normal time frames.
Disrupting your circadian rhythms can affect your sleep cycle and throw off these times. While taking melatonin is a common cause of sleep cycle disruption, another is taking naps too late in the day.
While the benefits of healthy napping are significant, taking naps close to your regular bedtime or over an hour can compromise your sleeping habits. This is because sleep clears your adenosine levels, and these neurotransmitters reduce the physical desire for sleep.
Tips for Taking Healthy Naps
So how do you make the most of those precious few minutes when you can get a power nap in the middle of the day? Here are some helpful tips.
- Know Your Body– Taking a power nap can be very helpful for many people, but it’s not for everyone. People who already have insomnia or disordered sleep habits shouldn’t try to work naps into their routine unless they’ve already sorted out their sleep cycle. Disrupting the sleep cycle further could worsen the difficulty of falling asleep.
- Timing Matters– There’s a reason that the mid-afternoon nap is practiced around the world. The ideal time for a nap is after lunch, when you may be full from eating and losing focus on work. This could boost your productivity, but it’s best to keep naps to before 3 p.m.
- Find the Right Environment– Naps should be kept short, and the last thing you want is to get carried away sleeping. But at the same time, interrupting a nap right as you’ve started can leave you more tired than when you started. That’s why it’s crucial to find a napping place with minimal distractions or interruptions, such as somewhere with a closed door.
- Ease Yourself In– It’s essential to be in the right frame of mind for napping. Much like you should avoid caffeine or anything overly stimulating before sleep, it’s best to find some relaxing music or a less-suspenseful book to enjoy before trying to get that mid-afternoon nap.
- Set an Alarm– It may take some time to find the perfect nap length for you, but once you do, keep to it. Setting an alarm makes it easy to wake up at the right time for the maximum benefit, no matter where you are.
Nap Your Way to Success
As little as 15 minutes a day can make a big difference in your productivity. With these tips, you’ll be able to get the maximum benefit from a power nap. Try it today, and a little sleep can change everything for your daily routine.