Naps Are Good for You

I wish I could nap. But, I’ve never been someone who could lie down in the afternoon, close my eyes and take a snooze. I wish I could! I watch my husband do it. He can fall into a blissful sleep within minutes of arranging himself on the bed, sleep for a while and wake refreshed and energized for the next chapter of the day.

He is  fortunate. Recent research indicates there are many mental and physical advantages to napping including increased alertness, enhanced learning and memory, reduced anxiety and an increase in joy. Who doesn’t want all that?

So how can you optimize napping to make it most effective? Here are some ideas:

• Find a dark and quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
• Limit nap time to 10-20 minutes unless you can go for a full 90 minutes. Naps of 10-20 minutes will typically leave you feeling refreshed, but if you sleep 30 minutes or more it can have you waking up groggy. A 90 minutes nap, however, allows for the entire sleep cycle and can be helpful for those who don’t get enough sleep at night. But be careful not to sleep too much during the day or you may not be able to get back to sleep at bedtime.
• Napping seems to be most effective in the late morning or early afternoon, and at those times there is less chance of interfering with nighttime sleep.
• Set an alarm to avoid oversleeping and to allow for full relaxation.
• Let go of guilt. Naps are good for you and like all forms of self-care are likely to actually help you get more done, not less.

Even if like me, it seems impossible to go to sleep when the sun is still up, closing your eyes for a few minutes and relaxing your whole body can still be helpful. Sometimes, when I have a break in my afternoon schedule, I go for a short, brisk walk and then lay on my office floor with my shoes off, feet propped on the couch. I close my eyes and imagine the nap I would take if I could. That feels good too.

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