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Your Guide To Taking The Perfect Power-Nap

As all too many of us know from experience, a poor night’s sleep can lead to lack of focus and productivity the following day. If only scheduled naptimes were a thing in the adult world and not just kindergarten…

On that note, when we have the ability to do so, taking naps as an adult can be really beneficial. In fact, a strategic nap can help us feel recharged and refreshed, especially after missing out on the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep the night before, according to Nilong Vyas, M.D., sleep coach and founder of Sleepless in NOLA

The next time you’re ready to reach for yet another cup of coffee, consider a nap if your environment allows. These expert tips will help you achieve an energy-boosting snooze without messing with your sleep cycle. 

Stick To 20 Minutes Of Snoozing

According to Vyas, the most optimal nap duration is 20 minutes. As tired as you may be, napping for longer and entering a deeper sleep can actually leave you feeling groggy afterward, according to the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center.

Read More: Try These Tactics To Get A Decent Night’s Sleep During Times Of Stress

“In 20 minutes, the body can feel the rejuvenating effects of the nap without disrupting the circadian rhythm and create a tendency to not sleep well—nor at the appropriate time,” she says. 

Create A Nap-Friendly Environment

Similar to when you get ready for bed at night, it’s important to set the right scene for your nap. Close the curtains to minimize lighting and turn off the television so that your nap environment is quiet, dark, and relaxing. If you’re in a noisy household, consider investing in an eye mask and earplugs. As long as you can be comfortable and undisturbed, you can nap wherever; it doesn’t have to be in bed, Vyas says.

Don’t Nap Too Late In The Day

To avoid messing with your sleep schedule, Vyas recommends penciling in any naps before three o’clock in the afternoon. If you’re really in urgent need of some shut-eye, you can take a late nap every once in a blue moon, but don’t make a habit of it.

Read More: 9 Things To Reach For (Instead Of Your Phone) When You Can’t Sleep

According to Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., a medical expert for Sleeping Ocean, napping too close to bedtime messes with your sleep drive, the body’s natural drive for sleep, which gradually increases throughout the day. By night, our sleep drive tells us it’s time to drift off, but a nap too late in the day can negatively impact that drive and the next thing we know, it’s almost midnight and we’re wide awake. 

Consider A “Coffee Nap”

Ever heard the seemingly counterintuitive recommendation of downing some caffeine (think a green tea or coffee) before dropping into a 20-minute nap? Turns out, this move is actually the real deal. “It takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to ‘kick in,’” says Vyas. “So, instead of walking around in a haze until your coffee kicks in, use that time to take a ‘coffee nap.’” Brilliant, right? You’ll really have some extra pep in your step after that one!

Stretch Before You Snooze

As you get ready to nap, consider doing some light stretching to get rid of any tension and help your body unwind. “Stretching before a nap can be helpful because it typically results in muscle relaxation,” says Hsu. “A relaxed body is more likely to drift off than a tense one.” A quick stretching routine has the same impact on your mind, helping to ease away thoughts and worries that may keep you up.

Can’t Doze? No Sweat

If you can’t ever seem to drift off when you settle down to nap, don’t stress. Ultimately, taking time to rest when you’re feeling exhausted is beneficial—even if you don’t actually fall asleep for those 20 minutes. “I believe that simply lying down and doing nothing can also be refreshing and rejuvenating,” says Hsu. “It gives the brain a break from the constant input of information, assuming you don’t use your devices when you can’t sleep. It can help you regain focus or simply relax and reduce stress levels.” Not a bad deal either way, right?

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