As the weather turns and the nights get darker, it’s hard to resist the siren call of the Daytime Nap. Whether you’re working or studying, there comes that lull in the afternoon. The one where your head nods and your eyelids feel as though there are small children hanging off of them. Nothing seems more appealing in these moments than getting your head down - just for five or ten minutes.
But napping can be a risky business. Time it wrong and you could end up having a full-length snoozefest - waking up at teatime with no idea where - or when - you are. Or worse, wake up feeling headachey, disoriented and generally worse than when you started.
So how do you hit that sweet spot and wake up feeling rested, restored and like you can take on the world? See if our expert tips can help!
What do I need to have the perfect afternoon nap?
- A blanket and pillow
- Loose, comfortable clothes
- A soft surface - bed, sofa or armchair
- An eye mask or curtains to block out light
- An alarm - just in case the nap starts graduating to a full-length sleep!
Why should I nap?
A nap isn't always a good idea, particularly on a regular basis. They can disrupt your body’s natural rhythms and sleep-waking cycle, as well as making it more difficult to fall asleep at night. However as an occasional treat or to supplement sleep lost the night before, they can be immensely helpful.
Naps can be beneficial for shift workers, athletes undertaking intense training and new parents whose sleep is often interrupted by their newborn. They are also recommended for those struggling with short-term illness or fatigue. Children under five often require naps for bodily growth and restoration, but everybody can really benefit from one from time to time.
When should I nap?
Although there is some debate on the subject, most experts tend to agree that early to late afternoon is the best time to grab one of those satisfying little slices of sleep. After a meal is often best as that full feeling promotes drowsiness and is in keeping with the Spanish tradition of the siesta which occurs between 2pm and 4pm.
Avoid naps after 4pm. Napping too close to the evening can disrupt your body’s natural winding down cycle which relies on outside factors such as light and temperature. Naps which occur too late in the day could leave you feeling restless when bedtime comes.
How long should my nap last?
The optimum time for a nap is less than thirty minutes to prevent the body from entering deep sleep or if you have time, a ninety-minute nap. It may sound lengthy, but napping for an hour and a half allows you to complete a full sleep cycle. This will ensure you don’t wake up feeling groggy.
Anywhere between the half hour and ninety-minute mark can mean that you are waking your body from a very deep level of sleep, which can be detrimental to both your mood and well-being. Think of a deep-sea diver being pulled to the surface too quickly and experiencing the dreaded bends. Your sleep cycle really isn’t so different.