Are you getting too little sleep? It may be time for a nap... According to the U.S based National Sleep Foundation, 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, which means that they nap throughout the day. However, humans are part of the minority (i.e., monophasic sleepers), as we tend to divide our day into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness.1
Looking at the fact that our youngest and oldest populations nap during the day, it’s questionable whether or not being awake for 16-18 hours straight is best for our health and wellbeing. Some cultures (i.e., Spain, the Philippines, South America), do incorporate a nap into their daily life while others use “tea time” to recharge their energy in the afternoon, leaning on caffeine to help them finish their day.
The problem is that modern life doesn’t make it easy for most of us to nap during the day. Whether we are working, parenting, going to school, or completing other obligations, factions of our society perceive people who take naps to be “lazy.” Some may even think that napping is for babies, for people who are sick, or the elderly.
Yet, the National Sleep Foundation reports that about half of Americans say that sleep deprivation affects their daily activities at least once a week.2 The consequences of this go beyond just impacting people’s health. According to the Journal of Sleep, lack of sleep costs U.S. companies $63 billion in lost productivity.3 These studies have helped people and companies tune into the fact that a 20-30 minute nap can help to improve people’s mood, alertness, and performance. Progressive organizations have even added beanbags and nap-ready comfy chairs to little-used meeting rooms or “meditation rooms” where workers are encouraged to unwind for their break-time and given the opportunity to rest if needed.
Are you getting 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night?
Experts recommend that you get seven to nine hours of sleep at night. But if you can’t, you should probably start thinking about incorporating a daily nap into your routine. Below are some benefits and practices to help you perfect your daily nap routine. Once you start feeling the benefits, you’ll be a convert in no time.
Naps Improve Performance And Alertness
A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap managed to improve performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. If you’re feeling sluggish, naps can increase your alertness upon waking up and you could also experience extended alertness for some additional hours.
A Daytime Nap Reduces Stress
According to the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians, a nap after lunch can reduce stress, support cardiovascular functions, and improve your memory. They also believe that an optimal nap time is approximately 30-minutes long.4 Why? Because it’s unlikely that you’ll enter into a deep sleep in this amount of time, and your nighttime sleep routine won’t be thrown off.
A Daytime Nap Is Relaxing
On a mental level, a nap can be a pleasant luxury or a mini-vacation for an overworked employee or a sleep deprived parent. It’s a cheap way to relax and to feel refreshed.
How To Incorporate A Nap Into Your Daily Schedule
1. Find the Time
If you’re working, there are pockets of time that you can use for a quick nap. For example, if you commute via public transit, you can use that time to snooze. If you drive to work, your car can be your portable nap-station for a lunchtime respite. You might even be one of the lucky few that works for a company that encourages naps during break. They may even provide a tranquil space for napping with sleeping pods or bean bags.
Once you find the time, work to make it a daily habit. This might mean that you have to block out your naptime in your calendar, or that you let some work wait until the next day. If this makes you nervous, remember that napping makes you a more productive employee.
2. Get In The Mood
It’s not easy to fall asleep if you’re stressed, or hungry. So set yourself up for success by preparing for your nap. This could mean listening to a sleep meditation prior to going for your nap, scheduling your nap for after lunchtime, or wearing comfortable clothes for napping.
3. Invest in Some Accessories
While it would be ideal to find a dark, quiet place to nap, the reality is that this might not be possible. But if you invest in an eye mask, ear plugs, and use white noise, you’ll be able to tune out any unwanted disruptions.
4. Set an Alarm
As you’re getting used to napping and perfecting your routine, set an alarm. During those first few weeks, you will likely be worried about waking up on time, and setting an alarm will take the pressure off.
5. Evaluate Your Sleep Schedule
Author Sara Mednick of Take a Nap! Change Your Life believes that if you’re an early riser, you should probably nap at 1 p.m. However, if you get up at 9 a.m., you should consider napping closer to 3pm.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, napping during the day will improve your focus, help you feel refreshed, make you a more productive employee, and reduce your stress. The best part about napping during the day? You’ll feel the benefits immediately upon waking and so will everyone that you come into contact with. Give napping a try and those 20-minutes will likely become the best part of your day.