I love my afternoon nap and am fortunate that I’m able to take one most afternoons, usually right after lunch, as that’s when I start feeling tired. I usually wake up feeling more energized and don’t feel as sleepy in the evenings.
It turns out there are lots of benefits to taking an afternoon nap like reduced stress, improved memory, and increased alertness, productivity, and creativity.
Napping may be viewed by some as being unproductive and lazy, but taking a siesta is an important part of many cultures. For example, countries like Greece shut down in the afternoon so workers can go home and take a nap.
Taking naps can’t be a bad thing as it’s natural in the animal kingdom. Look at our dogs and cats (“catnap”) who sleep on and off all day long.
The Best Time to Take a Nap
Many people start feeling sleepy after lunch, usually between noon and 2 pm. Some experts say 7 hours after waking is the best time to take a nap.
There’s some disagreement among experts about how long a nap should be. A study at NASA of astronauts and military pilots found a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%, but several studies say between 10-30 minutes is best if you don’t want to disrupt your nighttime sleep cycles.
Of course, many people have to work, so taking a nap isn’t possible. If that’s the case, you may want to examine why you’re feeling sleepy. Maybe you had too heavy of a lunch or had too many carbohydrates in the morning, which could lead to a sugar crash. If so, you might want to try a low-carb breakfast with lots of healthy fats and have a light lunch like a salad.
The Coffee Power Nap
Caffeine can be used to boost energy in the form of a power nap, according to studies. Drinking a cup of coffee (or tea) followed by short nap lasting 15-20 minutes can make you feel more alert and productive than caffeine or a nap individually. Caffeine clears Adenosine, the chemical in your brain that makes you feel sleepy, so you wake up feeling refreshed. See more in this article.
I’ve noticed that I wake up feeling terrible if I sleep all afternoon, and the first thing I usually want is a piece of fruit and a cup of tea. This is because if you sleep longer than 20 minutes, you can fall into sleep inertia, which is harder to wake from and you can feel groggy and worse than before you took a nap.
- Make sure you have a quiet, restful, comfortable place to take your nap.
- Try wearing a sleep mask if too much light in the room is keeping you awake.
- Try noise-blocking head phones if there’s too much noise in the background.
- Set an alarm if you’re concerned about over sleeping.
- If you wake from your nap feeling drowsy, try things to boost your energy like taking a walk, doing some stretches/yoga, or jumping on a rebounder.
My Nap Routine
- I diffuse some essential oils, such as lavender, which is recommended for sleep, and frankincense to promote relaxation.
- I get comfortable on my bed with my nap partner (below).
- I spend a few minutes using the Heart Math Inner Balance, a sensor and phone app that helps get you into a state of coherence so you feel less stressed and more balanced.
- I read a book or try some meditation, which always makes me feel sleepy.
Obviously, we’re all different and you might do better taking a longer nap, or no nap at all if you find it hurts your sleep in the evenings. Experiment and find what’s right for you.