I told my friend the other day I had a scientific treatise on nap-taking.
She thought I was joking.
Napping, for adults, is serious business.
(Napping for infants and children is serious business also, but that is another discussion for another post.)
Many of the things I’ve learned about napping coming from my father, a man who for the past thirty-some-odd years has come home at noon every day to kiss my mother, eat his lunch, and take a nap.
So with props to you, Dad, I now present the proper way to take a nap.
I work within specific nap parameters which are closely linked to scientific principles. (Um, just trust me on that, okay?) Before you close your eyes, answer these questions:
What time is it? If it’s after two ‘o clock, you’re better off figuring out a way to stay awake rather than catch up on your zzz’s. Napping later than two can disrupt your nighttime sleep schedule, which I do not advise.
How much time do you have to nap? There are two categories of naps (which I made up–again, through trial and error, so you don’t have to. You can thank me later.): The Long Nap and The Power Nap.
Our bodies continually go through a cycle of introductory sleep, deep sleep (also called REM sleep, if you want to get technical), and then back through lighter sleep. You can mirror it to your exercise: warm-up, aerobic exercise, and cool-down. To cut back on the bleary-eyed crankiness that surfaces when waking from a nap, try to time your naps to wake up while you’re still in introductory sleep, or after you’ve cooled down. That way, you feel refreshed instead of like someone has cleaned out your eyeballs with a scouring pad.
A typical sleep cycle is 90 minutes. Too much shorter than that and you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, feeling muddled. Too much longer, and you’ve dived in to another sleep cycle and it will be difficult to wake up.
If you are feeling especially tired and have the time, go for a long nap. If you don’t have that much time, 20 minutes is ideal for a power nap.
Where is a good napping place? I prefer to nap on my bed, although my dad always liked the couch for his naps. Choose a spot that is comfortable, relatively quiet, and dark-ish. It doesn’t have to be as dark as night, but it helps to not have the sun blazing across your face.
Once you’ve decided you’ve got time to nap, what type of nap you’ll be having, and where you’re going to do it, you’ll want to do a few other things to be able to get the most out of it.
First, use a blanket. If it’s too hot, use a sheet. Having some sort of cover over your entire body anchors you to your napping surface and tells your brain to shut off.
Second, take off your shoes. You’ve decided to give yourself this little indulgence, so allow your body to fully relax.
Third, set a timer. There were many years my mom would send one of us to wake up Dad when the microwave went off, but now he’s got a portable Pampered Chef timer that he can take with him. I use my cell phone. Whatever you use, make sure you use it. While using a timer may seem to take the spontaneity out of napping, it helps The Nap keep its inherent promise: waking refreshed. In saying that, I am assuming two statements are true: You take a nap because you feel tired; You do not take a nap to wake up more tired.
And so my little nap-padawans: go forth and nap correctly, wake refreshed, and conquer the world.