Adult Napping: Napping often gets a bad rap in the United States. In the U.S., some people believe that napping is a habit reserved only for young children or elderly adults, and that anyone else taking a midday doze is simply being lazy. But the truth is, napping can be beneficial for all ages, including young and middle-aged adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. While naps aren’t a replacement for a good night’s rest, studies have shown that napping can provide a slew of benefits, including increased cognitive function, improved memory, better job performance and better mood.
There is a big caveat, however: too much napping can exacerbate underlying sleep issues and negatively impact your sleep quality and duration. To set yourself up for a successful midday doze, here are a few dos and don’ts (spoiler alert: weighted throw blankets are definitely a “do”).
- Do: Keep your naps short and sweet
While both short and long naps can be beneficial, most sleep experts recommend keeping your naps on the shorter side. Why? Because the longer you sleep, the more you fall into a deep slumber that can be difficult to wake up from. Napping for too long can cause sleep inertia, which is the feeling of grogginess and incomplete sleep. (In other words, the exact opposite of what a nap should feel like.)
To wake up feeling refreshed and restored, keep your naps around 15 to 30 minutes. While some people can get away with taking slightly longer naps, this range appears to be the sweet spot for most.
- Do: Nap earlier in the day
When it comes to taking a successful nap, timing is everything. Taking a nap too late in the day can interfere with your nighttime sleep and exacerbate sleep issues.
To keep your sleep schedule on track, try scheduling your naps for some time in the early afternoon. According to a study published in PLOS ONE, this is the best time to take a nap because people experience a temporary drop in alertness and performance after lunch.
- Do: Eliminate potential distractions
Even when you’re exhausted, falling asleep in the middle of the day can be a tricky thing to do. If you’re someone who struggles to fall asleep quickly (or at all), focus on eliminating potential distractions in your sleep environment. Use ear plugs or a white noise machine to block out the sound of car alarms, cat fights and loud neighbors.
If anxious thoughts are keeping you awake, consider dozing off under the soothing pressure of a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets use deep pressure stimulation, which calms the central nervous system, making you feel relaxed.
Alternatively, you could use a weighted sleep mask to block light. Lightweight and travel-friendly, weighted sleep masks are particularly useful if you’re trying to nap in a new environment.
- Do: Consider taking caffeine prior to your nap
Although it might sound counterintuitive, taking a small amount of caffeine before a quick nap can be beneficial. Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to fully kick in, giving you just enough time to fall asleep and sneak in a short nap before you begin feeling the effects. If you want to give it a shot, the CDC recommends taking 100 mg of caffeine (about five ounces of brewed coffee) before your nap.
Of course, keep in mind that this strategy can backfire if you don’t fall asleep within a certain amount of time. If you can’t fall asleep quickly, consider waking up to the smell of coffee instead. The aroma of coffee signals to the brain that caffeine is on the way, triggering feelings of wakefulness.
- Don’t: Perform critical tasks immediately after you wake up
When done right, short naps shouldn’t make you feel groggy or tired after you wake up. But if you feel a little disoriented after a nap, the CDC recommends giving yourself a few minutes to wake up before you go back to performing critical tasks, including driving or operating heavy machinery.
If you’re in a hurry, performing an energizing task can potentially help you wake up faster. For example, you could do some light stretching, listen to upbeat tunes or drink a cool glass of water. Give yourself a few minutes to ease back into your routine, and you’ll be alert and productive in no time.
- Don’t: Limit yourself to one napping position
So, should you nap upright or laying down? Some people have expressed concern that napping in an upright position can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot that forms in the deep vein in your body. However, this is generally more of a concern if the person is napping upright in the same position for hours on end.
The CDC recommends lying down on a bed or a cot to nap since this tends to be the comfiest position for most people. But according to the Sleep Foundation, there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about sleeping upright. At the end of the day, the best napping position is the one that works best for you.
- Don’t: Eat a heavy meal before a nap
If you keep waking up from your naps feeling nauseous, your diet could be to blame. Eating fatty foods, alcohol and other stomach-irritating foods can aggravate acid reflux, a chronic disease that occurs when stomach acid flows back into the food pipe and irritates the lining. To avoid feeling sick to your stomach after your midday doze, eat an early lunch and avoid foods that are fatty, acidic or highly-caffeinated.
- Don’t: Feel guilty about taking a nap
In our “live to work” culture, it can be easy to feel guilty about taking a midday nap. But we all need rest and relaxation. And thanks to a growing body of research, it’s clear that napping deserves a spot in our self-care routines. So, give yourself permission to enjoy your nap. You deserve it!
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