Napping may be thought of as being unproductive and lazy, but it’s one of the most effective ways to restore your brain’s power.
Scientific studies have found that napping can restore wakefulness, promote learning, boost memory, reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep, and reduce stress (1).
To set yourself up for a successful nap, you need to follow a few guidelines related to timing, environment, and diet.
Timing is everything.
Save your nap for when you can get away for a short period of time. Make sure to get to a good stopping point in your work so you aren’t dwelling on a particular task while trying to sleep. Mid-afternoon naps seem to be ideal for most people, according to researchers who study napping (1).
Don’t overdo it!
Aim for 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want to make the nap too long where you start going through the different phases of sleep. A nap of less than 30 minutes in duration during the day promotes wakefulness and enhances performance and learning ability (5). A frequent habit of taking long naps may be associated with poor long-term health and chronic disease (6).
Find a safe place.
Find a quiet, peaceful place where you can relax. Just like when you sleep at night, make sure the environment is free of distractions like phones, laptops, and TVs. Try to sleep in a dark room and make sure the temperature is cool.
Drink coffee before your nap.
Having some caffeine right before your nap actually prevents you from overdoing your napping period by increasing alertness and cognitive function, limiting sleepiness after you’ve woken up.
Rinse your face with cold water.
Nobody likes to be groggy after a good nap, especially if you have work to do. Washing your face with cold water is a great and refreshing way to wake up.
Napping can help fill the gap when longer sleep isn’t possible. Filling the gap is important especially as studies have consistently shown that missing just one hour of sleep can alter insulin sensitivity and other important hormones involved in metabolism, potentially contributing to weight gain (2-4).
- Waterhouse J, Atkinson G, Edwards B & Reilly T. The role of a short post-lunch nap in improving cognitive, motor, and sprint performance in participants with partial sleep deprivation. J Sports Sci. 2007 Dec; 25(14):1557-66
- Hursel R, Rutters F, Gonnissen HK, Martens EA, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Effects of sleep fragmentation in healthy men on energy expenditure, substrate oxidation, physical activity, and exhaustion measured over 48 h in a respiratory chamber. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2011;94:804-8.
- Van Cauter E, Plat L, Leproult R, Copinschi G. Alterations of circadian rhythmicity and sleep in aging: endocrine consequences. Hormone research 1997;49:147-52.
- Van Helder T, Radomski MW. Sleep deprivation and the effect on exercise performance. Sports Medicine 1989;7:235-47.
- Halson SL. Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Med. 2014 May; 44 Suppl 1:S13-23.
- Dhand R & Sohal H. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2006 Nov;12(6):379-82