Whether you are spinning your wheels on a big deadline, in a bad mood, or struggling to rally for a big night out, a power nap might be just the magical pill you need to feel better.
My Dad is an old-fashioned fellow. He wears bow ties and tweed, takes black and white photographs, and stands when people enter the room. He’s never been accused of being trendy. But lately, with articles on the magical power of sleep grabbing headlines daily, his Sleep Doc credentials make him seem downright hip. (I know he really appreciated that it took Arianna Huffington’s Thrive for me to finally listen to his advice on sleeping better. Better 30 years late than never, I say.)Anywho, one thing Dad and I have always agreed on is the value of a power nap. According to Dr. Daughety, we need a certain amount of sleep but it doesn’t have to come all at the same time. Seven to eight hours in a 24-hour period, however you get it, is still sleep and begets the same benefits.And while napping may seem as simple as laying down and shutting your eyes, research shows that certain napping techniques produce better results.
Follow these 7 tips to get the most out of your naptime.
1. Nap length is key.
A power nap is a short sleep that ends before you fall into deep sleep. Studies show that a power nap should be between six and thirty minutes to get benefits while also avoiding sleep inertia or persistent grogginess once your wake-up.
2. Make your alarm awesome.
Scientists have found that extroverts need lots of external stimulation to feel energized. If you fall in the extrovert camp, consider making your alarm your favorite pump-up jam. (Mine was "Empire State of Mind" for years, so good.) If you are more introverted, you might choose a lower-key song that wakes you gently.
3. Drink caffeine before you lay down.
Dubbed the nappucino, British researchers found that the combination of caffeine and nap combined combat sleepiness better than cold air, radio, caffeine pills, a nap or coffee alone. The combo is ideal because the stimulant effects of caffeine take about 30 minutes to kick-in so you'll be feeling a double-boost just as your alarm goes off.
4. Dress for success.
This may be personal preference but I love the ceremony of going to bed... Brushing teeth and changing into sleep clothes. If you have time, repeating your sleep ritual for your nap may put you in a more relaxed state. In a pinch, keep a sleep mask and earplugs nearby to create a dark, quiet environment for a mid-day snooze.
Try not to stress about actually falling asleep. Just laying down and letting your mind relax for a bit is restorative. If you really want to get some sleep, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It seems to work for me. (Confession: I can't remember the order of the numbers so I just inhale for 10, hold, then exhale for 10.)
6. Make waking up attractive.
If the least fun part of your day awaits when you get out of bed, you are likely to linger past your alarm. Throw yourself a bone and make the first thing you do post-nap pleasant. Maybe a snack, maybe phoning a friend, maybe a shower... You can be kind to yourself and still be productive.
7. Team up.
If you are worried that you won't be able to wake-up, you may be running a sleep deficit and need more sleep in general. I have nearly zero self-discipline when it comes to getting myself up when I'm running a serious sleep deficit so put my alarm far away from my bed or have someone call to wake me. No shame in bringing in back-up sometimes!