Tips for a Successful Afternoon Nap

7 mins read

This article explains 4 tips to have a successful afternoon nap.

There are many reasons a person could require the benefits of a nap during the day. Sleep deprivation the night before, preparing for a night shift and staying up all night, fighting sickness and requiring that extra energy for your immune system, or simply needing to relax to improve mood and energy levels. Some of the benefits of napping can include improved learning abilities, aid in memory formation, regulating emotions, and of course reducing sleepiness. Many employers provide nap rooms or sleep pods in the workspace as they have seen an increase in productivity and work performance from their employees having afternoon naps. In this article we will discuss 4 tips to have a successful afternoon nap!

1. Length of Nap

The first tip is to consider the length of the nap. The most recommended length of a nap to have the best results is 10-20 minutes.1 These naps are often referred to as “power naps” because they provide recovery benefits while not leaving the napper feeling groggy or sleepy afterwards. 5 minute naps have been found to be too short and will not provide the benefits, while 30 minutes naps have been found to be too long, causing sleep inertia.2 Sleep inertia is a period of grogginess or drowsiness felt after waking. The best way to avoid sleep inertia and wake up feeling productive and alert after a nap is to limit the amount of time spent asleep – don’t forget to set an alarm!

2. Don’t Nap too Late

The second tip for a successful nap is to ensure you are not napping too late in the day. Napping too late in the day can affect your ability to fall asleep at night, and sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on employee performance in the workplace. It is recommended to take a nap at the halfway point between when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night. For most people, that halfway point is right before lunch or after lunch during the post-lunch dip.3 The post-lunch dip is that afternoon slump we may feel after eating lunch when our energy drops. The best time window to nap is usually between 12:30pm-3:00pm.

3. Sleep-Friendly Environment

The next tip to help have the most successful afternoon nap is to use a sleep-friendly environment. Here are a few things that can help to maximise the nap environment:

      • Low light (or no light). Darkness is your friend for naps!
      • Avoid using screen devices in the room
      • Comfortable sleep area. You may not have access to a comfortable mattress, however, use the most comfortable place to sleep that you can find. Company nap pods are a great solution, and there have even been companies known to set up sleep hammocks!
      • Cool temperature. It has been found that the best temperature for sleep is 18.3 degrees Celsius.4
      • Quiet space. This could require using earplugs depending on the environment you are trying to nap in. Loud noise disturbances can cause severe sleep fragmentation and disruption. When having a short nap and time is limited (especially at work) it is important to avoid disruptions.

4. Relaaaax

The final tip for an effective nap is to simply relax! Set aside any worries, as ruminating on stresses will prevent you from being able to fall asleep. We realize this may be easier said than done for some. It is recommended to try relaxation exercises if you are having trouble not worrying about the to-do lists or concerning thoughts in your mind. Relaxation exercises can include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization exercises, and biofeedback devices.5

Practice Makes Perfect

Proper lengths and time of day, a good sleep environment, and relaxation are all factors that can help in taking an effective nap that will leave you feeling refreshed and energized. If after trying these tips for the first couple of times you are still unsuccessful in taking a nap – don’t worry; practice makes perfect! If unsuccessful, use the nap time to close your eyes and rest, as it may take some time and effort to figure out the right napping conditions for yourself.

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1 Brooks, Amber, Leon Lack. “A Brief Afternoon Nap Following Nocturnal Sleep Restriction: Which Nap Duration is Most Recuperative?” Oxford Academic. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/29/6/831/2708239

2 Hilditch, Cassie J., et. al. “A 30-Minute, but Not a 10-Minute Nighttime Nap is Associated with Sleep Inertia.” Oxford Academic. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/39/3/675/2454036

3 Bes, Frederik, et. al. “Modeling Napping, Post-Lunch Dip, and Other Variations in Human Sleep Propensity.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647793/

4 Pacheco, Danielle. “The Best Temperature for Sleep.” Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/best-temperature-for-sleep

5 Newsom, Rob. “Relaxation Exercises to Help Fall Asleep.” Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/relaxation-exercises-to-help-fall-asleep

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