How well are you doing, really? Various studies have shown that 1 in 3 adults do not get the proper amount of rest, 1 in 5 adults suffer from a type of mental disorder, and about half of American adults suffer from cardiovascular issues. While there is no magic pill to fix all three, or any one of these in particular—there are steps that can be taken to improve our health and prevent some long-term irreversible effects. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep can be beneficial to our health in so many different ways. What is the best way to obtain sleep benefits and how can these be extended upon? One important option for obtaining some extra rest that many adults pass up is napping.
Benefits of Napping
Napping is heavily focused on when we are young. I remember having a specific mat just for me in Pre-School. I toted off every day with my lunch, pillow, and a blanket. Most toddlers take a nap every day, at least up until the time they start kindergarten, and even some kindergarten classrooms still have rest periods. While it is recommended that young children get more rest than adults (ranging anywhere from 10-14 hours a day for children vs. our 7-9) napping during the day isn’t just for kids. There are several benefits that can come from napping as an adult. According to the Mayo Clinic the health benefits that can result from napping can include increased alertness and productivity, along with relaxation and mood improvement. Naps can also help reduce fatigue and reduce stress.
Naps can have drawbacks. For those prone to sleeping issues such as insomnia, or for people with overall poor sleep quality they can result in making those conditions worse. Some people may also encounter or suffer from sleep inertia—or feeling disoriented and groggy after waking up from a nap. You can read more about how to combat sleep inertia here. It is important to know what naps look like for you and to keep in mind they will vary differently from person to person.
Always nap earlier on in the day
Ideally if you plan to nap or plan on incorporating it into your daily routine, try to take that nap before 3PM. Understandably there will be other situations that may cause adjustment, i.e. a work shift starting very late, but generally a nap before 3PM is a safe bet. In fact, according to sleep.org “the best hour for most people to nap is between 2:00pm and 3:00pm. That’s because you’ve already eaten lunch and your blood sugar and energy levels will naturally start to dip. In fact, your body clock is often programmed to make you feel a little sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. If you try to nap earlier, your body might not actually be ready for more sleep.” If you wait to take your nap later on in the day, it may affect your sleep that night. It is very important to pay attention to your nap in relation to the rest of your day.
Aim for a nap in a shorter time frame
Do not nap for several hours. This will not be productive. Sleep score labs recommends remembering that “timing is everything; a nap that is too short or too long can leave you feeling fatigued instead of rejuvenated. A short nap of 10-20 minutes is precisely enough shut-eye to reap the many restorative benefits of napping.” If you must nap for a longer amount of time and this would be your only option, aim for a 90-minute nap.
Have the ideal nap location
Sometimes this is unavoidable; if you don’t have the perfect space and still want to make it work, go for the gold, but whatever you do, just look forward to and be excited about napping. From an excerpt of another lovely take on naps: “Whatever gets you excited about crawling into bed will make nap time that much more appealing. “But even if you don’t have that stuff, wherever you are, you can embody rest,” Hersey says. “If you’re sitting on a couch, on a park bench, on an airplane, it’s about your mentality around it and getting into a routine. Wherever your body is, it’s the site of liberation.” You can make anything work as long as you believe but I also recommend surrounding yourself with things that make you comfortable and happy—my personal three favorites for a good nap are a dimmed room, a fan, and my weighted blanket. For me having my source of comfort is something that makes things more immediately relaxing to me, guaranteeing that I will drift off faster. A blackout curtain you can block light with is a true game changer.
Take your mind off of your to do list
Yes, there are probably more things to do today. In my case most often I’m exactly ready for a nap around 1 or 2 pm when I still have a bulk of work left, however I do work a little later in the evenings sometimes to allow myself these luxuries. Your mind needs to be quiet in order to rest and allow your body to take a break. If you are like me and need a little something extra to help, I recommend having a fan in the room you are in or a sound machine. These can really assist in helping you feel a little more calm, even in the midst of midday chaos.
Practicing these techniques for napping during the day can be a great way to contribute to your overall mental and physical health. Getting the proper amount of sleep can do wonders for your cardiovascular health as well as keep your mind sharp, an almost guaranteed booster for your days. While there is no perfect solution to all of life’s problems, it has been researched and verified, a nap never hurts!