For far too long, naps have gotten a bad rep for themselves, deemed a sign of laziness. But in recent years, thanks to much scientific research, naps have been proven to benefit both mental acuity and health, boosting alertness and overall concentration. In fact, humans, and mammals in general, are genetically programmed to sleep for short periods of times during the day. Yes, seriously. So the next time your boss gives you grief for being drowsy and sluggish in the afternoon, tell him to blame it on your genetic makeup.
Here are the ways you can get the most out of your quick nap.
- Find out the best time to nap
If you are an early bird, tending towards early wakeup times (around 6am) and falling asleep around 9pm-10pm, you will feel the need to nap around 1-1.30pm. If you're a night owl, preferring to go to bed after midnight and waking up after 8-9am, plan your naptime to coincide later in the afternoon, closer to 2.30pm-3pm.
- Keep it short and set an alarm
Try to limit your nap to 45 minutes or less if you need to be active immediately after the nap, as excess sleep may result in sleep inertia, which is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that could last for half or more. Ideally, a catnap should last not more than 20 minutes, and can enhance concentration and alertness. Tip: down a cup of coffee just before your catnap as caffeine takes around 20 minutes for its effect to kick in. You'll be fresh as a daisy upon waking up.
- Have a light blanket handy
Keep yourself comfortable with a blanket, but avoid anything too heavy as excess warmth may cause you to oversleep.
- Calm your body
Relax your body by breathing deeply and slowly, concentrating on relaxing one muscle group at a time.
- Darken the room
Light inhibits sleep by making it difficult for people to fall asleep, and also influences our internal clock and thereby our sleep patterns. For a completely restful nap, darken the room or use eye shades.
- Quiet your mind
Nothing spoils a nap faster than having a million thoughts clogging up your brain at any time. Calm your mind by picturing relaxing scenarios, or counting sheep. Hey, don't knock it till you've tried!