Napping might seem like a great idea when you are low on energy, but if you do not nap at the right times, it could leave you feeling worse than you felt in the first place. Understanding the best times to take a snooze and for how long will help you reap the most benefits and feel the best in the long run.
The Benefits of Napping
If you feel exhausted or you know that you are going to be short on your regular sleep because of something going on in your life, taking the time to sleep during the day can be very beneficial. It can help you feel rejuvenated, help you concentrate, and make it less likely that you are involved in any type of accident or make detrimental mistakes. The period of enhanced alertness may last for several hours following the time you nap, which is why many people refer to their afternoon snooze as a “power nap.” Even if you are not in need of heightened concentration, sleeping during the day can make you feel more relaxed and possibly less stressed.
The Disadvantages of Napping
Sometimes, however, resting during the day can have ill effects on your body and your ability to sleep at night. If you sleep deep enough, you will likely feel groggy and out of sorts for a short period of time upon waking. If the goal of taking a short nap was to re-energize yourself in order to be able to focus, your plans could backfire. This issue, called sleep inertia, can last up to 30 minutes and is similar to how you may feel upon waking in the morning. In addition, resting during the day can make it very difficult to close your eyes at night. This could disrupt your nighttime patterns, negatively affecting your body in the long run, putting you at risk for depression, anxiety, and even heart conditions.
How Long to Nap
In order to get the most out of your daytime rest, it is important to keep your time spent sleeping short. Experts say that 30 minutes is the most you should sleep during the day as this is just enough time to help you get that relaxed feeling without disrupting your ability to go to go to bed at night. You will not likely get that groggy feeling when you wake up after a nap of 30 minutes or less because your body will not go into deep sleep for very long. This gives you the best chance at waking up alert and able to perform the tasks ahead.
When to Nap
If you are able to time your nap to late afternoon, typically between 2 and 3 PM, you should experience the lowest effects on your sleep at night. Of course, this depends on your exact bedtime, so you should adjust your schedule accordingly, meaning if you go to bed early and rise early in the morning, napping around 1 or 2 PM might be better for your schedule. Try and play around with the times that you rest during the day to see when you feel the most rested as well as when your ability to sleep is least affected. Some people find that they not only have to tweak the times that they sleep during the day, but also the length of time spent sleeping. Some people can handle an hour of sleep while others can only handle a quick 15 minutes or so.
Napping is not always a bad thing, as long as it is done right and as long as you ensure that there are no underlying medical conditions causing your fatigue. If you have a big night ahead of you or are just feeling over-stressed, a cat nap might be just what the doctor ordered.