I have great news: Napping is good for you.
If you loved napping in a cozy little cocoon as a child and wish you still had permission to do it as a fully grown adult, science says nap your heart out. According to Harvard scientists, a 60-minute nap during the day can be extremely beneficial. Known as power, flash, or micro naps (not to be confused with “micro sleep,” which is when you unexpectedly doze off for 15 seconds, proof that you’re in need of a good night’s rest), a short nap in the afternoon can improve how you function throughout the day and even lead to better sleeping habits at night.
You might even already be familiar with power napping—it’s not new to the medical world and there’s been extensive research on it. Remember the coffee-powered nap where experts recommended a shot of coffee just before you napped which optimizes your alertness and kicks in after a 20 minute snooze?
Even NASA approved a 26-minute nap, showing their athletic-like astronauts benefited from a short snooze to improve their alertness to carry on through the day. Dimitra Kontoyannates, the leading naturopath at Beau Rivage’s Wellness Center, Cinq Monde believes a short 20 minute nap is a powerful tool for good health and highly encourages utilizing it. “If you feel your eyes closing, your neck getting stiff and you can’t concentrate, then it’s a good time to take a nap,” she explains. “For most of us, napping allows us to re-energize for the rest of the day and be efficient in our activities without drawing on our reserves,” adds Dimitra.
According to Charlene Gamaldo, the medical director of Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, the ideal time to nap is between 1 to 4 p.m. “Napping [during] this time of day will provide you with the most bang for your buck,” she says. “A quick cat nap should be restorative, and shorter naps also ensure you don’t have trouble falling asleep at night.”
If you find it difficult to fall asleep during the day, there are tips on power napping like a pro. “Make sure you have satisfied all your basic needs, such as hunger or thirst. Then lie down in a comfortable and dark place with a blanket,” says Dimitra. “And don’t forget, set your alarm clock for no more than 20 minutes.” Have we finally convinced you to give the power nap trend a shot? Before you begin, here are a few items that will help you reach that desired sweet spot.
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleeping more than 20 minutes will lock you into a deep sleep which can harm the way you sleep at night. So rather than crawling into bed and hunkering down for the day, sleep on a couch like the Sabai Loveseat that is comfortable enough for short naps but not enough to sleep for an entire afternoon.
According to the Neurology and Sleep Medicine department at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a nap between 30 to 90 minutes is beneficial but unrealistic with our modern lifestyle. However, anything longer than that can lead to disrupting your cognitive rhythm — for example, people who napped for less than 90 minutes showed improved memory and made better judgment calls. To help you stay within the golden time frame, this Hatch Restore has an alarm and soothing sounds to help you master a good nap time.
If you’re having trouble letting go of concerns, Kimberly Truong from the National Sleep Foundation recommends practicing relaxation exercises. “Think about why you are napping and what you can gain from your sleep,” she insists. The Morphee Sleep Aid has over 200 combinations of relaxing music and nature sounds, as well as meditative verses in four different languages to help you meditate into a quick nap session.
Did you know that your brain processes sounds even when you are asleep? Because of this, creating a quiet and noise-free environment will help you nap much more quickly than being in a crowded place. You can opt for earplugs, but we think noise-proof curtains make for a much better investment. Dimitra says that “non-regular noises disturb sleep, even if we forget them after a while. “Sometimes a light and soft noise can reassure and help sleep, but it is not a long term solution,” she adds.
Controlling the temperature of your body is important in falling asleep. According to a series of studies conducted in 2008, adults who wore socks to bed fell asleep much quicker and what better way to do that than in these Sherpa-lined slipper socks by Bombas. Michael Breus, better known as the Sleep Doctor, recommends any “breathable cotton-made” pajamas and socks for people with cold feet on his website. “Properly taking care of your feet is important to get a good night’s sleep. If you’re prone to cold feet while you sleep, fixing this can be as easy as wearing socks to bed to regulate a process called thermoregulation which causes your core body temperature to drop during the night.”
Research says that soft music can actually help you regain a better sleeping pattern at night and during the day. According to the Sleep Foundation, when you’re exposed to sounds, the happy hormone we refer to as dopamine is released which helps you get to sleep. Rather than sleeping to tunes pumped out of your iPhone—which projects blue light that is harmful to your sleep hygiene—this old-school CD player plays all your favorite songs to get you to fall asleep faster. Enya anyone?