There are two types of naps.
First, there’s the type of nap that turns into a complete snoozefest. You plop down on the couch with the intention of getting back up after a few minutes, but in reality, you end up waking up 2 or 3 hours later, groggy and disoriented after realizing you let yourself slip too far into a deep sleep.
The second type of nap is usually what everyone hopes for. It’s the productive type of nap that’s short and effective, leaving the napper feeling refreshed, alert and ready to take on the rest of the day’s tasks. And unlike the first type of nap, it doesn’t completely throw off your entire sleep schedule at night.
Of course, there certainly are those rare times when a total snoozefest is in order, but most people would probably prefer to use napping as a productivity tool rather than an overindulgence that can turn your day into a waste. Here are 10 tips to keep to help you get the best out of your nap.
1. Don’t even think about taking a nap without setting an alarm.
This really is the golden rule of napping, and it’s the one essential thing you need to do to avoid losing hours of your day to an extended state of unconsciousness. It only takes a few seconds to set an alarm on your laptop or phone to make sure you get up when you should.
2. Set your alarm according to what you want to get out of your nap.
The amount of time you should set for your nap depends on what your goal is. If you’re feeling drowsy and all you want to do is snap out of it, a quick 2- to 5-minute nap might be all you need.
For a bigger boost in alertness, focus, stamina and energy, you’ll need at least 5 to 20 minutes. The typical power nap is about 20 minutes long, which offers the additional benefits of improving your memory and clearing your mind.
3. Don’t lie down in a horizontal position if you plan to avoid slipping into a deep sleep.
You’re more likely to fall into a deep sleep if you nap while lying straight down. If you do plan to nap on a bed or a couch, make sure your head is propped up against the wall, headboard or edge of the couch with a pillow or something soft.
4. Aim to nap after lunch.
There’s a convenient dip in energy that occurs for most people right after lunch that’s ideal for napping—even if you don’t have a typical schedule or didn’t eat lunch. Eating lunch, however, will most certainly make it easier to nap.
5. Eat foods that are rich in calcium or protein an hour or two before you nap.
Certain foods will help you nap better than others. Anything high in calcium or protein will do the trick, so consider adding some yogurt, almonds, oatmeal and other healthy choices to your lunch.
6. Avoid eating foods high in sugar and caffeine an hour or two before you nap.
A sugar high and the jitters won’t help you relax at all. Limit coffee to the morning, and avoid those delicious donuts and pastries throughout the late morning or afternoon if you plan on taking a quality nap at some point.
7. Have a quick cup of coffee immediately before you take a nap.
Everyone knows that caffeine wakes people up, but if you can manage to play with the timing of your caffeine consumption by avoiding it in the hours before you nap and then letting yourself have a cup right before, then you’ll be setting yourself up for a good day. It takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine to hit your brain, which is why this type of “coffee nap” is really one of the most effective ways to feel refreshed after 20 minutes of rest.
8. Throw on a sweater or use a blanket to keep yourself warm.
Your body temperature naturally starts to decrease as you drift to sleep. To avoid being woken up by the discomfort of feeling too cold, cover up with a sweater or a blanket before you settle down for your nap.
9. Shut the blinds or use an eye mask to darken your environment.
Melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, is stimulated by a dark environment. If you can’t control the amount of light coming into the room by closing the curtains or shutting the blinds, place something like an eye mask, a scarf or some other piece of fabric over your eyes to keep it dark.
10. Use earplugs or headphones with optional relaxing music to promote quietness.
You’re going to have a hard time napping if there are lots of loud and abrupt noises occurring in the background, which is easily solvable with a regular pair of earplugs. You could even grab a pair of headphones to listen to some soothing ambient music, nature sounds or white noise at a moderately set volume.