I remember fighting naps when I was a kid. I never wanted to go lay down in the middle of the afternoon for fear that all the fun stuff would happen while I was catching Z’s. Fast forward 25 years and now I look forward to naps and can’t wait to get one!
We are one of the only mammals who do not nap on a regular basis and most of us are underslept on a regular basis. Even if you have convinced yourself that you can function off of 5 hours of sleep a night, the average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep. If you are “under sleeping” each night, you accumulate what is known as sleep debt.
The good news about sleep debt is that you can catch up. But if you’re like most people, you probably sleep in on the weekends and then spend the rest of the weekend super groggy. By the time the Monday rolls around, you are back to missing hours of sleep and the cycle continues.
Napping (and sleep) is an act of self-care. When I feel the most overwhelmed and stressed out is when I am underslept, and even 20 minutes of shut-eye can help me re-focus and complete the task at hand.
How long should you nap? 20 – 90 minutes is ideal. A 20-minute nap, known as a stage two nap, is ideal to enhance motor skills and attention, while an hour to 90 minutes of napping brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which helps make new connections in the brain and can aid in solving creative problems.
Do you wake up feeling super groggy after a 90-minute nap? Maybe you should stick to 20 minutes. I am definitely in the 20 minutes camp because anything over 45 minutes and I am out cold for at least two hours. (whoops, there went the day!)
You don’t need to nap every single day – perhaps just a few times a week to help you catch up on sleep and be rested. And a nap doesn’t mean that you have to be out cold for any period of time – simply setting yourself up into a comfortable position, such as on your back with your legs resting up a wall, reclined in your car, or laying flat (if you’re lucky!), and closing your eyes for 20 minutes will give your brain a needed break.
Napping is not for everyone – if you find that it interferes with your sleep at night, leave it out! Or figure out a way that you can get to bed earlier (see 3 Tips to Help You Sleep Better Tonight and Sleep Training for Adults) so that you can get more sleep each night and decrease your fatigue during the day.
If you’re still not convinced, I promise you that the 20 minutes you spend wasting time on social media or staring at your computer screen but not able to form a coherent thought are much better spent resting and resetting your brain and body with a nap. Trust me!
Are you a napper? What is your favorite way to hit the reset button during the day?
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