When feeling tired, the first place people like to go is the coffee machine, but experts say that a mid-day nap could actually be a better way to gain energy for the rest of your day.
One of the most effective ways to take a nap is to keep it short. Taking naps of about 20 to 30 minutes will reap the benefits of sleep, but will keep you out of a type of deep sleep called REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep.
Freshman Allyson Fu said, “Sometimes in the morning, I take a power nap if I did not get enough sleep, and these naps are the ones I appreciate. Oftentimes, I feel more energized and awake, which differs from naps I take at other times in the day.”
Setting an alarm is also a good idea. Falling asleep is difficult if you are worried about waking up at just the right time. Setting an alarm on your phone alleviates this pressure and makes it easier to take a snooze.
If you have the time, you can take a full-cycle nap. Full-cycle naps will bring you through the full sleep cycle, and take about an hour and a half. These naps can oftentimes make up for any lost sleep since your body is in REM sleep.
Taking naps of more than 40 minutes but less than 90 minutes can cause a phenomenon called sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the grogginess that you feel when waking up in the middle of a good sleep. Because your body was undergoing deep sleep and was totally interrupted, your brain is still full of the sleep hormone melatonin.
“I usually take about hour-long naps, and I don’t really feel any better than I did before. I feel like going to bed, and usually, I do,” said freshman Peter Angelo.
If you are short on time, but really need to be awake for a while after your nap, try a “caffeine nap,” To take a caffeine nap, quickly drink a cup of lukewarm coffee and immediately take a 20 minute nap. The caffeine will kick in right after you wake up, along with the refreshment of the nap.
All these strategies for napping may be helpful, but there are things to watch out for when taking a nap.
Insomniacs, or people that have trouble sleeping, should not take naps as it can only worsen their insomnia. Research has found that not taking naps can improve an insomniac’s sleep consistency. The last time that an insomniac falls asleep directly correlates to how long it takes him or her to fall asleep at night.
Also, taking naps after four o’clock in the afternoon is not a good idea. From noon to four is the lowest point of the circadian rhythm, or the biological clock that determines our daily bodily functions. This is when it is ideal for nap time. Any time past that, though, could potentially mess with your circadian rhythm.
Taking a walk in the sun instead of napping is usually more effective if you are feeling tired after lunchtime. Your core body temperature usually drops at around one to three in the afternoon, which signals your brain to start producing melatonin, a sleep chemical. Going outside and warming up your body is a great way to halt melatonin production.
It is important, though, to realize that napping does not replace nighttime sleep. Getting a full eight hours is still the best way to stay alert throughout the day; naps should only be used in cases where you lost out on sleep the night before. Do not make naps a habit.
How long are your naps? How do you feel afterwards?