The Nap

23 05 2012

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.

The setting of my latest nap--on top of the bed, next to my son's Lego garage (not pictured).

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.

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11 responses

23 05 2012
moniquel319

I must tell you that a power nap for me can be anywhere from 5-20 minutes. I’m usually just right at about 15. Also, if you follow all your steps, especially the one where you ask yourself “what time is it?” then tell yourself, “I need to get up in X minutes” you usually don’t need a timer:)

23 05 2012
Wendy

Monique, you are obviously a nap-jedi. Congratulations!

23 05 2012
moniquel319

Lol.:) Let’s not talk about how one becomes a nap-jedi though;)

23 05 2012
Melissa

Crazy! My dad takes a 17 minute nap everyday when he comes home for lunch. I thought he was exceptional. Guess both our dads have it down.

23 05 2012
Kathleen

I never knew that about your dad, that is awesome.
I read an article in Real Simple magazine all about naps. She hit on all the same points, but she swears to letting the sun shine in, reminding your body not to go into that deep sleep (not that we have the sun option very often up here in wa). Either way, naps are great, especially when you are 8 months pregnant.

24 05 2012
Jeff Archibald

Man, this sounds like a lot of planning. I’m more of a freestyle napper. A nap rebel. Language also changes–“20 minutes” usually means an hour. But I’ll try to take your napping advice. I’ll tell Laura that it’s all in the name of science.

Love,

El Jefe

26 05 2012
Anonymous

Wendy–Love it–it really is a science. Not just anyone can do it–years and years of training pay off. By the way, I actually learned it from my Dad. Personally, I don’t care for the bed because then I’ll a)likely fall into too deep of a sleep and more importantly for me b) sleep on my side– therefore wrinkling my shirt so I don ‘t look reasonable when I go back to work for the afternoon. Love Dad

26 05 2012
Rach

Haha, I love this! I am definitely a nap-padowan. I can’t quite get the timing right, so I either wake up not refreshed at all or ridiculously cranky…I will definitely have to try these tips! Thanks Wendy 🙂 I love your posts!

– Rachel [a friend of Erin Reynolds, who directed me to your blog a few years ago, and I’ve been a stealth-fan ever since…I hope that isn’t creepy.]

27 05 2012
Wendy

Melissa–I thought *my* dad was the only one who did it. Maybe it’s something in the water?

Kathleen–Hope the pregnancy is going well. I can’t WAIT to meet the newest Thompson. (Okay, I take that back. I can wait until he’s full term.)

Jeff–Let me know how that goes. “In the name of science” is usually a pretty good excuse.

Dad–the shirt-wrinkling thing is something I did not know (probably because I don’t wear dress shirts) but it’s interesting all the same. I also didn’t know Grandpa was a napper. The things you learn blogging . . .

Rachel–Thank you for visiting my blog! I always say, any friend of Erin’s is a friend of mine.

29 05 2012
Candice

No lie, I actually adjusted my naps according to your advice. I had a refreshing, timed nap today. No more groggy Candice.

30 05 2012
Mandy

I am a big believer in keeping the blinds open during a nap and I have a really hard time setting a timer because then I’m nervous the whole time about falling asleep quickly so I can get my full nap in. Not setting a timer results in a WAY too long nap and extreme grogginess so I really need to try it!

P.S. I love that you have this down to a science. I am staunchly pro nap.

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