We’ve all been there:
You come home from work or school after only a few hours of sleep the night before. You’re completely devoid of energy.
Of course, there are many ways to regain or keep energy, and some are healthier than others.
If you feel tired or groggy, energy drinks or coffee are a popular way to go. Simply dragging through the day on low energy is another option; but what is the healthiest way to regain energy?
Here is the answer:
We spend a large part of our lives asleep.
And while the recommended nightly seven to eight hours of sleep are crucial to our overall well being, so is napping.
Power naps do far more for you than simply recharging your energy reserves. They have the potential to reverse certain conditions, prevent illness, and make sleep easier.
Check out this brief list of how naps can benefit you:
1. A stronger immune system & faster response to injury
A nap is the perfect way to heal injuries both internal and external. When you’re injured or have an illness, your body feels sluggish and tired because it’s trying to tell you to rest.
Resting allows our bodies to focus on healing rather than job performance or exercising; it reduces inflammation, too, making it a perfect solution to allergies in the spring.
2. A better night’s sleep
Did you know being overtired can actually hurt your sleep?
Symptoms of undersleeping include poor memory, irritability, and difficulty making decisions. It can even have a negative impact on how well we sleep at night, making us feel restless or wide awake.
Many cultures encourage naps during the day, usually between 1 and 3pm. As a result, most people who nap sleep without issue and remain bright-eyed and mentally sharp throughout the time they are awake.
A short nap 4 hours or more before your regular bedtime can recharge your mind and allow you to fall back into a more regular sleep cycle.
3. Stress relief
Stress is part of our daily lives no matter what we do to escape it. Between our busy lives, our jobs, and our families there doesn’t seem to be any time for us.
A 20-30 minute nap can alleviate stress and improve your overall sense of well-being..
4. Improved morale and better moods
Closing your eyes for 20-30 minutes has been proven to increase motivation and productivity. This has a positive impact on morale, too; a short nap could be just what you need to get through a hectic or stressful day.
5. Sharper thinking & decision-making skills
One of the lesser-known benefits of napping is memory improvement. When you sleep – or nap – your brain takes that time to organize and store memories. It can do this more effectively when your sleep patterns are consistent.
Recent studies show that naps are more effective than caffeine for memory sharpness and memory recall.
Among other things, napping can improve motor skills, nerve function, and verbal recall. If you can never remember faces or names, try adding a nap into your daily routine and see if that changes for the better.
And a quick note about holding back on the coffee and taking more naps: not only will you save a bit of money every year, you will also avoid the crash that comes with caffeine.
The Dos and Don’ts of Napping
Resting for short periods throughout the day and night is a natural and healthy way for most mammal species to recharge. But as humans—especially as adults—we typically spend only one block of our time awake and the other asleep.
But in reality, taking a rest midday doesn’t just benefit children and seniors, but adults as well.
So I bet you’re wondering:
If napping is such a great thing, why don’t more people do it?
The answer to that is simply that most people don’t think they have enough time. And they aren’t sure when to nap or even where to nap.
It’s so easy to get bogged down by all of our daily stresses and projects and forget about putting ourselves first.
In this section, we’ll have a look at the ways napping can help you or hinder you, depending on where and when and for how long you do it.
Napping Tips: The Dos
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1. Nap 20-30 minutes
A nap should never be longer than about 30 minutes. Anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes is ideal; some people can even feel refreshed after 10 minutes.
It isn’t always that simple, though.
If you’re particularly tired, sick, or injured, napping for longer than 30 minutes can greatly benefit how quickly you heal and/or recover.
The more you sleep when your immune system is compromised or you have an injury, the easier it will be for your body to bounce back.
2. Nap before 3 PM
What time of day you choose to take advantage of the benefits of napping matters almost as much as the length of your rest.
For example, if you take your nap an hour before your usual bedtime, you may not have a great night’s sleep.
Assuming a typical sleep schedule, resting your eyes and your mind is best done before 3pm.
If you have an unusual schedule, don’t nap within three hours of your usual normal bedtime. This ensures that you are rested for the rest of your day while also following your normal sleep schedule.
3. Nap somewhere safe and quiet
You’re not going to get any rest trying to sleep at work or in a crowded room. Choose a quiet area or a place that’s not as loud as a busy bus station or mall.
Home is, of course, the best option, but if you have a cot or another napping option at work that’s quiet, try using that.
Safety goes hand in hand with quiet. You’re never going to be able to rest if you don’t feel safe.
Closing your eyes and drifting into rest mode is your most vulnerable state, so honor that by napping only where you feel secure enough to do so.
1. Don’t nap for over 30 minutes
Did you know that napping for long periods can negatively impact your body?
Over-napping can cause sleep inertia, a slower immune response, and insomnia. Other issues that can arise are chronic sleep problems and long-term health problems like cardiovascular disease.
Sleep inertia is one of the main causes of grief for those who don’t have their napping techniques down. This is a psychological response to waking after sleeping too long or too little, and symptoms include grogginess, impaired motor function, and fatigue.
One of the most effective ways of reducing or eliminating sleep inertia when you wake up is simply going back to sleep for 10-30 minutes.
If that isn’t possible, have some coffee and avoid decision-making or driving until the symptoms have passed (this usually takes between 10 and 30 minutes, but may not always go away completely until you rest again).
2. Don’t nap too close to bedtime
As mentioned in the ‘Dos’ section, if you take a nap too close to your usual bedtime, regular sleep won’t come easily.
Many people who nap an hour or two before bed report having difficulty falling asleep; they often wake several times for no apparent reason during the night.
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It’s all about balance
Both oversleeping and undersleeping can cause negative health effects. So just like everything else in this world, balance is the key to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
That said, the benefits of napping far outweigh any other energy-boosting alternatives, and are a great solution to having underslept the night before.
Just remember to keep those power naps between 10 and 30 minutes and enjoy feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on the day.