What do Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison have in common? Besides their notable brilliance, all three were notorious nappers. While naps are often maligned as lazy or unproductive, these men understood something essential. Whether we’re chronically fatigued or reasonably rested, a well-placed nap can work wonders for our focus, energy, and mood.
We’ve all experienced the irritability and clouded thinking that follow a sleepless night. We might try to power through it or mask the effects with caffeine, but there’s only one true cure for fatigue—rest. In fact, the Journal of Sleep Research found that taking a nap can provide short-term benefits including quicker reaction times, improved logical reasoning, and a better mood*. And a study at NASA showed that a 40-minute nap improved pilots’ performance by 34% and their alertness by a whopping 100%**.
Not only that, but since it’s widely known that sleep deprivation can take a toll on your immune system, supplementing with naps may help you stay healthy. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that napping had stress-releasing and immune-boosting effects in a small group of healthy but sleep-deprived men***.
If you happen to be nap inclined, this probably sounds like pretty good news. There’s no need to feel guilty about taking one when you need it. The next time your eyelids grow heavy after lunch, remember—you’ve got NASA on your side. However, for those of us who find falling asleep for a few extra minutes a challenge, we’ve rounded up our top tips for attaining that elusive daytime snooze. Just keep in mind that whether you slip into a deep slumber or simply lie quietly for a while, you deserve a little midday “me time” to rest and recharge.
9 tips for napping excellence
Grab a pair of earplugs or headphones
Nothing causes nap friction like peripheral noises. Tune out distractions with some earplugs for silence, or choose soothing music or a guided relaxation like this one.
Cover your eyes
Whether you use an eye mask, sunglasses, or even a spare hoodie, give your blue-light-blasted eyes a break and trick your mind into thinking it’s nighttime.
Assume the best available position
No worries if you can’t lie down fully. You can sit back in your chair or even lie forward on your desk if you have privacy.
Shoot for mid-afternoon
It’s difficult to nap too early and if you do it too late, it could disrupt your sleep. Stick to napping between 2:00 and 4:30 for that sweet spot.
Consciously relax your body
As you’re winding down, concentrate on relaxing each part of your body, one at a time. Relax your eyes, your jaw, your neck, and continue on…
Keep it to 20 minutes on weekdays
If you have the luxury of taking an afternoon nap on a weekday, keep it to 20 minutes. Any longer and you might feel groggy. You don’t want to get too deep into sleep during midday, just a little refreshed.
Take time to wake up
If you’ve successfully napped, give yourself time to wake up. Throw some water on your face, have something to drink, or walk around the block. Don’t start writing emails from a groggy place.
See the value no matter what
Whether you actually sleep or not, know that this time to pause and rest is useful to you on many levels.
Listen to your body
If after some experimentation you find that napping disrupts your sleep, either keep it to the weekends or try shortening your naps. However, there are some people who just don’t find naps helpful. No need to fight it. Try a restorative yoga practice, yoga nidra, or meditation instead. You can find some of our favorite nap alternatives in our restful online yoga and meditation class collection, Nearly Napping.
*CE Milner, KA Cote. Benefits of Napping in Healthy Adults, The Journal of Sleep Research, 18 June 2009.
** Napping Benefits & Tips, The National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping
*** Brice Faraut, Samir Nakib, Catherine Drogou, Maxime Elbaz, Fabien Sauvet, Jean-Pascal De Bandt, Damien Léger, Napping Reverses the Salivary Interleukin-6 and Urinary Norepinephrine Changes Induced by Sleep Restriction, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 100, Issue 3, 1 March 2015, Pages E416–E426.