How to nail an afternoon power nap

Living Well | Sarah Marinos | Posted on 21 July 2020

Make the most of your cheeky afternoon nap with these expert tips.

Falling asleep at your desk? Having a quick nap during the day can make you feel more alert, help you get through the jobs you have to do and lift your mood. A NASA study of military pilots and astronauts found that a nap boosts performance by 34 per cent and improves alertness by a whopping 100 per cent. 

The Sleep Health Foundation says a short nap can be a valuable tool to help us stay focused when our mind and body start to flag. Some forward-thinking businesses, like Google, have taken this on board and created sleep spaces or sleep pods in offices where staff can have a swift snooze and then return to work feeling re-energised.

“A nap rejuvenates and revitalises,” says health psychologist Dr Moira Junge. “Tiny, pocket-sized amounts of sleep increase alertness, reduce sleepiness and make you feel better. If you feel nauseous or have a headache, a nap can help ease those symptoms.”

Puppy sleeping on couch

Five hacks to help you make the most of your afternoon nap

Keep your nap to 20 minutes and no more

The first and lighter stage of sleep occurs during the first 15 minutes or so. “After 30 or 40 minutes you are more likely to go into deep sleep and then when you wake you will feel groggy,” says Moira. “That’s called sleep inertia and it leaves you feeling disorientated and lethargic and worse than you felt before you napped.” So, keep your nap short.

Have a coffee just before you nap 

Have a shot of caffeine immediately before your nap because it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine effect to get into your bloodstream and your brain. “When you wake after a 20-minute nap you’ve had sleep and the caffeine will take effect so you get a double hit of alertness,” says Moira. 

Get the temperature right 

The Sleep Council in the UK says a cool 16 to 18 degrees Celsius is the ideal temperature for sleeping. Rooms above 24 degrees are too stuffy and a chilly room will also make it difficult to nap. (Plus: How to choose a doona.) 

Nap somewhere dark  

When our body sees light it naturally senses that it’s time to wake. When a space is dark our body instead releases a hormone called melatonin that makes us feel relaxed and so helps us fall asleep. If you can’t find a dark room to nap in, invest in an eye mask. And keep your mobile phone screen out of sight – it produces blue light that suppresses sleep-inducing melatonin. 

Have a pre-nap snack 

Some foods and drinks may help induce sleep more quickly. Try a glass of warm milk, a banana, chamomile tea or brazil nuts that are rich in selenium, potassium and protein that help boost melatonin levels. Cheese and crackers are also a good sleepy snack as they contain tryptophan, calcium and magnesium that also make us feel ready for a nap. 

Sweet dreams

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