I have never been a big fan of taking naps. Even if I feel exhausted, it’s always difficult for me to fall asleep in the middle of the day. And even if I do manage to fall asleep, I always wake up feeling groggy and disoriented! My anti-nap stance mystifies my husband and daughter, who are both more pro-nap (and pro-sleep in general) than anyone else I know!
But even though I don’t personally enjoy taking naps, that doesn’t mean I think they are worthless! In fact, I recently learned some interesting facts about naps that made me wish I liked them more! But even if I can’t change my own preferences, at least I can pass the information along to you. Because as it turns out, there are actually plenty of good reasons to grab some afternoon shut-eye!
Today I’ll be sharing 5 benefits you can experience from taking a nap when you’re feeling sleepy. After that, I’ll also share some a few bonus tips for getting the most out of your nap time! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling more well-rested already! ;-)
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5 Good Reasons To Take A Nap
1. Improved Mental Performance
Taking a nap when you’re feeling tired can boost your mental performance. You may feel more alert, or notice improvements in your short-term memory.
2. Improved Physical Performance
Grabbing a quick power nap can also have physical benefits too! A 2007 study found that after a night of limited sleep, participants who took a post-lunch nap recorded faster sprint times than their no-nap counterparts.
3. Reduced Stress & Anxiety
After a night of limited or low-quality sleep, your body produces a stress hormone called noradrenaline. This hormone contributes to the tired and lethargic feeling of being sleep-deprived. But grabbing an afternoon nap can balance out your levels of noradrenaline and other stress hormones, leaving you in a better mood and mental state!
4. Fewer Food Cravings
Are you susceptible to the “afternoon sleepies?” That post-lunch energy crash can leave you reaching for junk food, sodas, or energy drinks to help keep you going. But taking a nap instead will leave you feeling more focused and less stressed. And that will make it much easier to fight those cravings for sugary drinks and junk food!
5. Healthier Heart
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who take naps regularly are less likely to die from heart disease than those who don’t. So go ahead and nod off for a while—it’s good for your health!
6 Bonus Tips For Better Naps
1. Keep It Short
A luxurious two-hour snooze can be nice every once in a while, but it’s best to limit most naps to 10-20 minutes long. A five-minute power nap won’t produce many benefits, and staying asleep for too long could make it hard to fall asleep later.
2. Time It Right
You can maximize the benefits of a nap (and minimize potential drawbacks) by taking it at the right time. Check out this handy Nap Wheel by Dr. Sara Mednick, which will tell you the prime time for the “ultimate nap” based on when you woke up.
3. Take A “Caffeine Nap”
Some sleep experts recommend the “caffeine nap” method. It involves drinking a cup of coffee or a caffeinated soda, and then immediately going to sleep for 10-15 minutes. The goal is to wake up around the same time the caffeine kicks in, so you’ll feel focused, energized, and ready to get back at it! (However, unless you have no trouble falling asleep on command, this one could be tricky to pull off!)
4. Hit The Lights
To make sure your nap time is actually restful, you may need help creating a dark, quiet environment. Consider using an eye mask to block out the daylight, and a pair of earplugs to block out distracting sounds. (Some people need a quiet environment to fall asleep, but I prefer to use a white noise app.)
As far as light-blocking eye masks go, I recommend getting one like this. These types of masks are contoured to fit around your eyes without pressing down on them. It’s perfect for napping, because it will block out the light without messing up your eye makeup!
5. No Sleep? No Problem
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just can’t seem to fall asleep. And that’s okay! You can still reap many of the benefits of napping by resting quietly for 10-20 minutes. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths, and you’ll be feeling refreshed in no time!
6. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Taking a quick snooze can be beneficial, but those benefits come from eliminating a sleep deficit. If you’re tired from not getting enough sleep, it makes sense that getting more sleep in the form of a nap will help you feel less tired. But there’s another way to reap these benefits—just get more and/or better sleep at night! You won’t need to rely on the benefits of napping if you already feel well-rested.
Are you pro-nap or anti-nap?