RECOVERY: Discover the power of napping

Let’s be honest. Getting the recommended amount of sleep every night is difficult. Between tackling late-night emails, trying to finish our to-do list, or scrolling through social media, we’re often too distracted at night to hit the sack.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of all Americans say they feel sleepy during the day between three and seven days per week. And 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping on average for less than seven hours per night. All those nights of missed sleep have a negative effect over time. So what can you do?

One solution: The power nap.

While you can’t totally make up for lost sleep with a nap, it’s an excellent way to quickly decrease the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Research has shown that the restorative effects of a short nap apply after a normal night’s sleep, after a restricted night’s sleep, and even during 64 hours of continuous work. So everyone can benefit, no matter how you slept last night. What’s more, taking a brief break and clearing your mind has been shown to greatly enhance your creativity later in the day.

Nap strategies

Now that you know naps aren’t just for toddlers, use these seven tips to get a better power nap:

1. Limit your nap to 20 minutes or less. 

Longer naps tend to create sleep inertia (a period of lethargy, poor mood, and decreased alertness following the nap) and to reduce the effectiveness of evening sleeping, where the deeper stages of sleep occur.

2. Choose the right time. 

The effectiveness of napping is increased when it is performed during the time of the lowest dips in your circadian rhythms. Although everyone is different, this is usually between 2-3 p.m.

3. Avoid getting in bed. 

Snuggling up in your cozy bed will make it harder for you to limit your nap to the recommended 20 minutes, plus you may start to associate your bed with napping instead of sleeping at night.

4. Relax. 

Don’t worry if you don’t fall asleep. Just closing your eyes and relaxing will be refreshing. Practice clearing your thoughts and focusing on your breathing.

5. Make a pit stop. 

Urinate before you settle in. Sounds crazy, but it helps you get comfortable and avoid distractions while you rest.

6. Find a quiet place. 

Find a quiet, dark place and close the door so you won’t be disturbed. Listen to some quiet, relaxing music or white noise to drown out the outside world.

7. Limit distractions. 

Put a meeting on your calendar so you won’t be bothered and silence your phone. And set a timer so you don’t stress about oversleeping.