Our modern, productivity-driven society tend to dismiss napping as a luxury. In reality, napping actually serves a biological purpose and should be be given more respect. Naps under 30 minutes have been shown to be effective in improving one’s productivity, alertness, and overall mood.
While there are contemporary solutions available, such as coffee and energy drinks, to keep people going throughout the day, such solutions are only delaying the inevitable exhaustion. Naps are a much better alternative.
As much as napping has many benefits, many find it difficult, or impossible, to nap. Often, they cite their inability to fall asleep in such a short amount of time and claim that they are jealous of the people who can.
I, for one, have experienced similar struggles. I used to hate napping when my mom forced it on me as a kid, but now I consider myself a huge advocate for naps, especially power naps. My friends know me for my religious 8-minute naps, and I have sometimes taken naps as short as 6 minutes too.
Do such short naps even work? You might ask. The restorative power of these short power naps is tremendous for me. Whenever I know I am not at my most productive at around the same time everyday, I can rely on a power nap to refresh me. As someone who is sensitive to caffeine, naps are what keep me going through my jam-packed college schedule.
Fear not, like learning to fall asleep fast (refer to the other article), napping is a skill that can be learned too. While a lot of the previous tips are applicable, below is a list of surefire ways that set you up to be an expert napper.
Cut the Guilt
First and foremost, one major mental barrier that many problem nappers have to overcome is guilt. Getting out of the victim mode, declaring yourself worthy of the nap you are about to take, and taking full control of your own sleep schedule is a very important first step.
Other than giving yourself permission to rest, a mentality shift is also in order. Napping means prepping, instead of slacking off, is an equally important realization to come to.
If the above information is not enough to sway your perception of napping, some of the most productive people known today all swear by the restorative power of naps: Einstein, Thomas Edison, and John F. Kennedy are only some of the names on the list.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Like when you are actually settling in for the night, it is important to be comfortable for your nap. When you are first getting started and when you are bad at napping, do whatever you need to do to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Be it an oversized chair, a comfortable sofa, a dark room, or even your own room; be it whipping out your eye masks or putting in your earplugs. Hopefully with this comfortable set up, napping will be made easier.
Once you are used to napping, you will be able to fall asleep without such a hassle of a set up. Now, I am able to take a nap everywhere, even when it is noisy around me. In this sense, attesting to my personal experiences, napping is a skill that can be learned.
Set Your Nap Time Wisely
Play around with the amount of time you nap for. I arrived at my weirdly specific 8-minute naps as I started from 15 minutes, then 12, then 10, and eventually settled on 8. This way, I have found a good amount of time to be able to fully fall asleep if I wish to but also short enough for me to squeeze into any hectic schedule that I might be on.
One caveat, however, is to not nap more than 30 minutes. After that threshold, like a 2-hour nap, can make it hard for you to get back into your normal daily activities because the “sleep inertia” might be keeping you from being productive.
It Is Okay to Fail
Another big impediment for the problem nappers is that they think napping should be equal to sleeping, and how they think that they have failed if they don’t reach a certain level of restfulness. Perhaps, it is more effectively if you think of napping less as sleeping, but more as resting. The ultimate goal of napping should be-- very simply-- eye-closed, 20-minute rest time. Not instant deep sleep for 20 minutes. Not having no conscious thoughts for 20 minutes. Just eyes-closed, rest for 20 minutes.
Admittedly, sometimes, I won’t be able to fall entirely asleep in a mere 8 minutes that I give myself. However, most of the time when I wake up from the eyes-closed resting session, I end up feeling a bit more rested and refreshed.
Try Caffeine Napping
Although it sounds counterintuitive to drink coffee before sleep, it might actually be an aid for optimal alertness after waking up from a nap. Since it takes caffeine approximately 20 to 30 minutes to take effect, traveling from your stomach to your blood streams, it is the perfect length of a good nap. Therefore, after you wake up from your nap and when the caffeine kicks in, you will feel more awake.AsNewsweek puts it, “think of a nap as an extra shot in your latte.”
Listening to Something
If you have trouble falling asleep, be it for a nap or in the evening, listening to a podcast or an audiobook might help. Perhaps, having outside noises and thoughts is a good way to distract one so that he/she does not dwell on their own thoughts. After a few days or weeks, you might be able to train yourself to fall asleep a couple minutes into it. Although I personally do not practice this technique on a regular basis, I have done this many times to help me fall asleep on airplanes.
What has been proven effective with people is that they will listen to the same audio everytime. There is even a podcast called Sleep with Me that is designed to put you to sleep, so maybe try that.
Let Your Mind Wander
For me letting my mind wander is one of the most important tricks that helps me fall asleep. Part of the trick is finding something that's just engaging enough to distract your brain to fall asleep, but not so engaging that you stay awake for it. For example, as trivial as it is, I like to think about my outfit for the next day or for a big event coming up whenever I am trying to fall asleep. Works like magic.
Give Yourself Time to Wake Up
As much as I love my power naps, “nap hangover” is real. I have, many times, experience this feeling of not having gotten enough sleep and an acute urge to hit snooze and fall back asleep. As such, it is very easy to oversleep from a nap, which will cause you to mess up your entire sleep schedule.
To combat this, what I normally do is that after I get woken up by my two or three consecutive alarms (I really do need that many), I listen to something, be it podcast or music, to wake myself up. After I mindlessly listen to those noises for 2 or 3 minutes, I will be feeling refreshed and be ready to go.