Master the End of Summer (and the Rest of Your Year) with Napping
It’s almost time for those big yellow school buses to start rolling but that doesn’t mean that you can’t soak up a bit more rest and relaxation out of your summer. And just because you won’t be climbing onboard one of those school buses doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to enjoying what’s left of the summertime for all that’s worth!
Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to spend some time lounging by the pool or stretch out on a fluffy beach towel by the waves. Maybe you spent your summer months traveling or visiting with family and friends – and now you need a vacation to recover from your vacation. Or you could be one of the unlucky ones that didn’t get a break at all and now you’re feeling exhausted from working hard during the hottest months of the year.
No matter how you spent your summer months, the tail end of the season is the perfect time to slow down and soak up some much-needed rest for the coming fall. After all, warm weather napping is a way of life in my parts of the world. And guess what? People that live in countries that are proponents of summertime siestas tend to have lower stress levels, healthier hearts, and actually live longer than the rest of us. Seems like they might be on to something!
Power Napping is Powerfully Healthy
Of course, using some of your afternoons to rest and relax isn’t just a beneficial habit during the summer months, even though siestas are an awesome way to cool down and boost your energy levels when the temperature is soaring.
There have been multiple accounts of some of the most creative, intelligent, and powerful people in the world made an afternoon nap a priority to perform at their peak. According to the National Sleep Foundation, some of the biggest advocates of the power nap included John F. Kennedy, Ronald Regan, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill. You could definitely do worse than joining those ranks, are we right?
But why did such an elite group of thinkers and power players take part in napping? Check out these amazing benefits of napping…
You’ve probably noticed a link between getting better sleep and being in a better mood and you’re far from being alone. Studies have proved that the production of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) can actually become blocked by lack of sleep. When you’re not sleeping, you’re most likely plagued by problems like anxiety, depression, irritability, and being easily distracted. Napping allows your brain to soak up extra serotonin during the say, helping to reverse the issues caused by sleep deprivation, and dramatically improving your mood and giving you a more positive outlook. Sweet, right?
Multiple studies (including several done by NASA) have found that spending a mere 40 minutes napping can increase people’s alertness and ability to focus by a full 100% and is more effective than a boost of adrenaline through intense exercise or even up to 200 mg of caffeine. And it was also proven that if work days are broken up with a short nap of around 20 minutes, alertness and energy levels are higher during the second part of the day than they were in the first part.
Study after study also proved that learning and working memory (the type involved in completing complex tasks) improved exponentially after napping. It was also shown that short naps improved memory long-term memory retention, thanks to the higher level functioning of the brain’s neocortex, which is where recent memories are transformed and processed during sleep.
Many of us might refuse to take naps simply because we have too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. But studies have shown that the opposite is actually true – the more working hours that we put in without resting, the less we get done. That’s where napping pays off by increasing productivity levels in the available time that we actually have. By carving out the time to take a 30-minute nap, you can hack your work day with rest, and get more done in a shorter amount of time.
Heightened Senses and Creativity
Napping has also been shown to increase your sensory perception – food tastes better, songs sound better, and the splendor of nature looks (you guessed it) even more splendid when you’re well rested. You’ll also be more creative if you nap, thanks to allowing that riot of ideas rambling around in your head to come together into actual insights and not just chaos. Bonus!
By now, you’ve heard how bad sleep deprivation is for your health. Without rest, your body is less tolerant to glucose, leading to weight gain and even diabetes, the levels of cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”) rise dramatically, and your heart struggles to keep up with the extra demand that insomnia puts on your body. Sleep is the antidote to all of this, helping you to boost your immune system, reduce anxiety, and aiding in muscle repair and weight loss. Simply put, sleep is even more important to your health than food, and napping gives your body a chance to reboot and heal itself.
Types of Napping (Yes, There’s More Than One!)
Now that you know how awesome napping can be, it’s time to talk about the right kind of napping for you. Believe it or not, there’s more to taking a siesta than just closing your eyes and drifting off, but have no fear! We’re here to be your napping guides.
Let’s get started by going over the different types of naps, their benefits, and how long they each take…
Power Napping (15 Minutes)
If you don’t have much time to spare during your days but still want to cash in on the benefits of napping, give a power nap a try. This short siesta will give you a good amount of light sleeping, which is great for improving focus and memory. If you want to be able to easily slip into an energizing power nap, try practicing progressive relaxation by tensing and then releasing all of your muscles, starting at your toes, and making your way up to your head.
Coffee Napping (20 Minutes)
Love an afternoon cup of Joe but still want to be able to take a little snooze? The coffee nap has you covered by combining the energizing effects of caffeine and the health perks of a nap. Researchers have found that the boost you get from a cup of coffee takes 30 minutes to kick in after it’s consumed, which means that if you take a 20-minute nap after your afternoon coffee run, you’ll be waking up just in time to ride that invigorating lift you get from your java fix. Boom!
Solid Snoozing (30 Minutes)
Sleep experts have found that people typically reach deep sleep right around 30 minutes after drifting off into Dream Land. And while the deep sleep stage is what you’re after while sleeping at night, you want to avoid it while napping, if you don’t want to wake up feeling groggy and confused. By setting your alarm to go off at the 30-minute mark in your afternoon nap, you’ll be able to get all of the benefits of napping, without worrying about feeling drowsy for the rest of the day.
Replenishing Refresher (90 Minutes)
If you have more free time in your day and you want to get the full benefits of napping, your best bet is to allow your body to go through a full sleep cycle, which scientists have discovered occurs multiple times during the night, and takes about 90 minutes per cycle. This type of nap is great if you’ve been feeling under the weather or have a big project to finish and want to be at your freshest – just remember that it’s meant to supplement your nightly slumber, not replace it!
7 Steps to Taking the Perfect Nap
You’ve found out that napping is a powerful tool to be healthy and productive, learned about the different types of napping, and now you’re ready to get started with your own beneficial napping habit.
But where do you start and how can you fit a nap into your busy schedule? Check out our 7 top tips for awesome napping…
1. Keep an Eye on the Time: Napping experts all agree that time is of the essence when it comes to afternoon siestas. Your napping sessions should be no shorter than 15 minutes and no longer than 90 minutes to keep you in the “sweet spot” of getting all of the napping benefits, without having to worry about dealing with unwanted grogginess and disorientation that can accompany sleeping for too long in the middle of the day.
2. Don’t Forget the Alarm: If you’re anything like the rest of us, you weren’t born with the gift of being able to wake yourself up without some kind of assistance, which is where your smartphone comes in very handy. Be sure to set an alarm before you settle in for a nap to make sure that you undo the good you’ve done by sleeping for too long!
3. Create a Napping Plan: According to napping experts, the best time to settle in for a siesta is about 6 hours after you’ve woken up for the day, in order to avoid getting to the point where you’re too sleepy to function at all, while also making sure not to interfere with your ability sleep that night by napping too close to bedtime. Planning your naps and scheduling them into your day can be an incredibly effective way to make sure that you’re performing at your peak at work, while also getting the best sleep possible each and every night.
4. Pick the Perfect Place: Finding the right place to nap might seem like an insurmountable task but all you really need to find is someplace that’s dark and quiet. That might mean locking your office door and turning out the lights, heading out to the parking garage to take a snooze in your car, or even bringing headphones and a sleep mask into the break room with you at nap time. No matter where you choose to take your power nap each day, just be sure to keep the distractions at bay to get the most out of your rest.
5. Quiet Your Mind: Your best bet for being able to fall asleep quickly during your planned nap time is by shutting your mind off to any negativity or noise. That’s where meditation comes into play, and sleep experts have been recommending using it for many years, in order to get to sleep faster and rest more peacefully. Luckily, there are now quite a few budget-friendly sleep gadgets on the market that can help you to meditate your cares away, slip into your nap quickly, and wake up feeling like a million bucks.
6. Stretch It Out: While it’s absolutely possible to fall asleep while sitting up, your best bet is to be able to lie down or at least stretch your body out while you nap. This might mean kicking your feet up on your desk or laying down on your office couch. If you’re lying down, you’ll get to sleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed, guaranteed.
7. Ditch the Guilt: If you find yourself feeling like a quitter or a bum for taking the time to nap during your work day, stop right now! Science has proven over and over again that napping is not only natural but of extreme benefit to all of us – not just preschoolers and octogenarians. Let go of your guilt about carving out the time for afternoon naps and embrace the benefits of better focus, higher levels of productivity, and improved health. Who knows, you might even start a trend at work and join the ranks of the ultra-profitable companies that encourage napping amongst their employees.