How to Maximize the Benefits of Napping
To nap or not to nap? That's a question you have probably asked yourself between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm on any given day. Fighting afternoon drowsiness can help avoid sleepless nights, especially if your nap turns into more than a nap. However, research suggests that napping may be good for your brain if you don't overdo it.
What Does Science Say About Napping?
A study involving nearly 3000 adults over the age of 65 found that participants who napped between 30 and 90 minutes in the afternoon performed better on a series of assessments of cognition and visuospatial ability than the group who did not nap in the afternoon or napped longer than 90 minutes.
Don't Feel Guilty About Napping
When you feel a nap pulling your eyelids down in the afternoon, get comfortable in your favorite chair, throw a blanket over your legs, and let the Sandman take over your brain and body for an hour. To ensure you don't sleep longer than 90 minutes, get an old-fashioned, wind-up alarm clock and set the alarm before dozing off.
The reason why you should limit naps to 90 minutes is simple: poor quality of sleep at night. If you nap too long, and can't sleep that night, then you'll probably find yourself napping even longer the next day. Your quality of sleep during the night is more important to your overall physical and mental health than taking naps.
Tips for Napping
Napping between one and three o'clock is the best time to give your brain a boost. Napping any later than that will likely disrupt your nighttime sleep.
Prepare your environment for napping. For example, make the room in which you nap as cool, quiet, and dark as possible. White noise machines can help mask noises, while eye masks can provide the darkness you need to fall asleep more quickly.
Consider drinking a cup of caffeinated (yes, caffeinated) coffee just before settling in for your nap. It takes about 30 minutes before the caffeine in a cup of coffee starts stimulating your nervous system. So, by the time you wake up, the caffeine will make you feel energized and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Last but not least--don't forget to set the alarm!