Using Science To Take the Perfect Nap

David Liira

This has the power to change your life!
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Are power naps a myth? Can you actually wake up feeling refreshed from a mid-day slumber? The answer is yes… if you play your cards right. If you’ve ever woken up from a nap feeling disoriented and more exhausted than when you got into bed, you’re not alone. Power napping is greatly misunderstood, leaving most individuals exhausted and confused.

While it isn’t necessary to get into deep physiology, there are several key points you must be aware of to concoct the perfect nap. Today we’ll look at the most high-yield facts around napping to give you a better understanding of sleep and an easier time executing your power naps. 

Let’s dive in!

5 essential ingredients for the perfect nap.

Before getting into some practical tips, here is a brief introduction to the sleep cycle. As you may have heard, there are different stages within everyone’s cycles. These stages are characterized by unique brain waves and activity levels.

Stages 1 +2 include theta waves. If you wake up during these stages, you’re much less likely to experience grogginess or disorientation. Stages 3+4, however, include delta waves that make up the deeper parts of sleep. Consequently, these zones are the hardest to wake from as drowsiness is sure to follow. The same goes for REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep when dreaming occurs. 

Due to the intricacy of sleep cycles, and the uniqueness of each individual’s rhythm, there must be a balance of planning and experimentation to find the best nap for you. To get you closer to that perfect power nap, here are the 5 tips you need. 

1) Limit your nap time to 10–20 minutes.

While the later stages of sleep are considered restorative, slipping into them during a nap does not work well. To avoid creeping into the deeper stages of sleep, ensure your naps are no longer than 20 minutes long. This time period is enough to get you into stage 2 sleep which can boost memory and creativity. Just ensure you don’t cross this threshold, as you will feel much more groggy, and your chances of waking up on time will drop drastically. 

As mentioned above, don’t be afraid to experiment with how long your nap periods are. The ‘perfect nap’ can range from anywhere between 10–20 minutes. Don’t be frustrated if it takes you a while to find the best rhythm for you, this is all about playing the long game!

2) Don’t take naps too late in the day.

Sleep debt is the accumulation of fatigue built up throughout the day as you draw nearer to bedtime. When we take power naps, we can remove some of this debt, slightly altering the trajectory of the most fatigued state for that upcoming evening. If you want to avoid disrupting your usual sleep time, make it a habit to nap no later than 3 pm each day. 

If you’re a night owl, you may afford to nap slightly later in the day, but this will depend on your physiology and schedule. Again, experiment away and try to clear out an early-to-midafternoon time slot for the best results! 

3) Be smart about your alarm placement.

You may be aware that pressing snooze in the morning can cost you big time. Unfortunately, transferring this habit to your naps will do even more damage. To avoid slipping back into a slumber during your afternoon rest, place your alarm away from the bed area. This will force you to get up and going once the alarm sounds! It will also prevent the infamous post-nap scroll through social media. While this tip may seem obvious, it’s an easy one to overlook when you’re sleepy and distracted. Be disciplined with it! 

4) Consider investing in sleep gear. 

While sleep gear may sound dorky and unnecessary, it may be one of the best investments you can make. If you’re struggling to get quality rest during your naps, think about investing in earplugs and/or an eye mask! By addressing external factors like ambient noise and light, you’re recreating an ideal sleep environment and your brain will be much more willing to relax into a power nap.

5) Improve the overall quality of your sleep.

If you’re having trouble taking consistent and disciplined naps, it may be rooted in your poor sleep hygiene. Fortunately, achieving proper sleep isn't all that challenging if you know what you're doing. The key points are to avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption later in the day, to put the tech devices away early, and to set consistent sleep/wake times. By investing in your sleep hygiene, virtually every other aspect of your health and wellness will also improve. Due to the little effort it takes to improve your sleep habits, it’s an absolute no-brainer!

Bonus tips: 

  • Do you like drinking caffeine? Coffee naps may be for you.
  • Try napping in the same location each day to give your body the right cues.
  • Ensure your room is cool and dark to encourage better sleep.
  • Don’t worry about falling asleep. Even resting in bed can help you recharge! Obsessing over the onset time of sleep will only hurt you.
  • Only take naps if you need them! While it may be beneficial to establish a routine, there will be days when you have the capacity to power through. Don’t be afraid to! 

In closing,

If you want to say goodbye to disorientating 3-hour naps, it’s time to get serious about your sleep hygiene! To find that elusive powernap, start by experimenting with the perfect length and timing for your rest. Once you find a rhythm, do everything in your power to keep it consistent each day. Don’t forget about the power of proper gear, alarm placement, and overall sleep health either! 

Many people fail at napping, but that does not mean it’s impossible. If you work hard to check off the 5 boxes above, you’ll be well on your way to upgrading your energy stores and boosting your health.

Happy napping! 

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Kinesiologist & Blogger. 15k+ followers. Dedicated to writing relevant, up-to-date pieces on health and the human condition. My job (and joy) is to save you time and money by delivering the tools you need to take control of your own wellbeing.


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