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Mid-Day Bliss: 4 Strategies for "Smarter" Naps

Yiwen Lu, MS, RD
April 4, 2024
April 4, 2024

In today’s fast-paced world, squeezing in a nap might feel like a guilty pleasure, right? But guess what? Napping isn't just about a quick energy fix. Keep reading so the next time someone gives you the side-eye for wanting to snooze, you can equip yourself with some solid science-backed evidence. Read on to find out why taking a power nap might be beneficial and learn how to nap smarter.

4 Benefits of Napping

  1. Boosts Alertness and Productivity: Picture this – you’re having a hectic afternoon at work, and suddenly, the post-lunch slump has crept in. Instead of reaching for yet another cup of coffee, have you ever considered a short nap? A 20-30 minute siesta can often do wonders to recharge your mind, combat midday fatigue, and significantly boost alertness. With this quick refresh, you can easily dive back into your tasks with renewed focus.
  2. Enhances Mood and Creativity: Naps don't just lift your mood.They also boost your creativity. Do you ever wonder why your best ideas pop up after a little shut-eye? It's because your brain processes all the information you've crammed into it during the day in your sleep. This really adds context to the popular saying, “I’ll sleep on it.”
  3. Improves Memory and Learning: Research suggests that napping plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, the process of making new memories stronger and more stable over time. It's like cementing new information into your brain so that you can remember it better later on. So, if you've ever felt frustrated because you can't recall something you've tried so hard to remember, maybe all you need is a nap or some good sleep to retain that information.
  4. Heart Health and Stress Reduction: Regular napping has been linked to a lower risk of heart-related issues. Naps also help reduce cortisol levels and allow individuals to manage stress through a mental reset.

4 Smart Ways to Nap

  1. Keep it Short: Aim for a quick 20-30 minute nap. Anything longer might plunge you into the mysterious world of "sleep inertia" – that's the fancy term for feeling groggy and disoriented after a nap. It usually happens when you're pulled out of the deep stages of sleep, like the slow-wave or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
  2. Find the Right Time: Optimal nap times are usually early afternoon around 2 to 3 p.m. Napping too close to bedtime, especially as the sun sets, might mess with your nightly sleep plans, disrupting your whole circadian rhythm.
  3. Create a Comfortable Environment: Make sure your napping environment is quiet, dimly lit, and set to a comfortable temperature. These settings will help to create a calm environment in which you can slip into nap mode faster.
  4. Use Sleep Enhancements: Grab a sleep mask, experiment with soothing scents, and calming music. Just be cautious with the duration of any sounds or scents to avoid disruptions during the later stages of your nap.

Takeaways

See? Napping isn't just a guilty pleasure. It can be good for you - both physically and mentally! As you delve into the realm of napping, armed with these insights, remember the key tips to nap smarter. Keep it short, find the right time, create a serene environment, and experiment with sleep enhancements. Be kind to your body and grant yourself the permission to snooze – it's a gift to your well-being!

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