How to Nap Effectively and Wake Up Feeling Rested
Who hasn't felt the sweet relief of surrendering to the heavy-lidded pull of sleep in the early afternoon and then awakened with a refreshed outlook and restored concentration? Naps are most helpful when they are taken during what's called the circadian trough, the period of drowsiness that most of us experience in the early afternoon. Early evening, on the other hand, tends to be a time of alertness, when many people find it difficult to sleep, no matter how tired they are. For advice on how, when, and even where to take your nap, we asked the experts and here's what they had to say.
Know how long should you nap.
Keep naps short—that means no longer than 15 to 30 minutes. "Napping longer than 30 minutes may contribute to grogginess and disrupt sleep quality at night," advises Andrea Nesteby, a physician assistant at the Anchorage Sleep Center in Anchorage, Alaska. "Keeping naps short ensures you are staying in the early and lighter stages of sleep and not entering the deeper stages of sleep."
The timing of your nap is key.
The best time to nap is generally in the middle of the day. "For a typical day work schedule, it is best to nap in the early afternoon between 1 to 3 p.m.," advises Nesteby. "Napping after 3 p.m. will disrupt your body's normal sleep cycle resulting in decreased sleep drive and may result in insomnia and disruptions in nighttime sleep. Daytime naps are generally not recommended in patients with insomnia (difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep at night)."
Nap in a dark, quiet, and calm environment.
To help yourself nod off, try a pre-nap routine. If every time you prepare to nap, you rinse your face and remove your shoes, or have a few sips of chamomile tea and listen to relaxing music, these activities will come to signal drowsiness. The routine might also include stretching the neck, back, shoulders, and legs. "Use ear plugs, eye mask, or a fan as white noise," suggests Nesteby.
Naturally, a comfortable bed or cot that lets you fully recline is a better napping spot than an armchair or a folding chair. "A central component of achieving healthy sleep is your environment," adds Phil Cordell, global category head of lifestyle and new brand development at Hilton. "For example, Canopy by Hilton offers mattresses that are outfitted with support and temperature control to ensure each guest can enjoy a comfortable sleep. Disruptors like light can interrupt a midday nap and when natural daylight is provided in a room, I recommend full blackout screens or electronically operated blackout drapery. In addition, white noise machines help to create that respite for travelers to rest and recharge, without potential disruptions."