A daytime nap can help you feel better during the day and sleep better at night, as long as you limit it to 25 minutes or less. If you nap for longer than 25 minutes, your brain slows down into deeper stages of sleep. This causes two things to happen:
- You wake up feeling groggy and it takes a long time to regain alertness.
- Your 24-hour sleep/wake cycle gets disrupted, which can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Whereas a 15 to 25-minute nap will help you feel calm and revitalised in the short term, and also reduce the accumulation of stress in your system, which will help you feel more relaxed in the evening and fall asleep more easily.
Have you ever pushed through tiredness all day and then gotten into bed thinking you’ll sleep really well because you’re so exhausted—then found yourself wide-awake wondering why you can’t fall asleep? Here’s the reason for this: When you’re exhausted, your body produces excessive amounts of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, just to keep you going. This hormonal cocktail causes you to feel strung out and moody. It also interferes with the production of melatonin, which makes it difficult to fall asleep and sleep deeply.
These practical tips will make your naptime effective and help you settle quickly into deep relaxation:
- Let anyone who’s around know that you’re resting and you don’t want to be disturbed.
- Turn your devices off or onto airplane mode.
- Set an alarm to wake you in 25 minutes or less–so you can forget about the time.
- Cover your eyes with an eye-mask or soft cloth to block out light and help your eyes relax.
- Wear earplugs to block any possible disturbances.
- Elevate your legs in one of the ways I demonstrated in the video: “Elevated Legs.”
If you’re sick, pregnant or chronically sleep deprived, an extended nap can be beneficial. Because we cycle through different stages of sleep (illustrated in the chart below), there are only two beneficial choices when it comes to napping: Either stop at 25 minutes, or let yourself sleep for a whole sleep cycle, which is approximately 90-minutes. To minimize any negative impact on your nighttime sleep, make sure you awaken from an extended nap by 4pm.
Once you awaken from a short or extended nap, drink a glass of water, expose yourself to light and take a few deep breaths. This will help you to quickly regain alertness.