Many people have picked up new self-care habits over the past two years (and not just retiring bras). About one-third of people working from home soon after the pandemic began admitted to napping during the day, according to one survey. And it’s something health experts say you should try to keep in the mix (if your schedule allows). Because a brief amount of shuteye could help reenergize you. But believe it or not, there’s a right — and wrong — way to nap.
We turned to the experts to find out when (and how long) to put your phone on DND when the mid-afternoon slump hits.
What are the benefits of napping?
Heading straight to the couch for a power nap could help you feel more rested when you wake up. It can also help boost your productivity and cognitive function, Dr. Nishi Bhopal, a psychiatrist and sleep specialist, said during the SkimmU Well sleep course in March. Naps can also help with your alertness and reaction time. Reminder: take a nap next time you’re driving and start to feel drowsy.
What’s the ideal power nap length?
If you have a standard sleep/wake cycle — meaning you start your day when it’s light out and go to bed when it’s dark — you’ll want to nap earlier in the day, said Dr. Julia Kogan, a health psychologist and sleep coach. A midday snooze (see: before 3 p.m.) is less likely to stop you from falling asleep at night.
But here’s the biggest secret: Make sure to keep the whole thing short: 20 minutes or less.
“It takes about 20-plus minutes to start to get into deeper sleep cycles,” said Dr. Kogan. “So, taking a nap under 20 minutes can help people feel refreshed, rather than groggy, since [you will not] have not entered deeper sleep stages yet.”
You should also talk to a medical professional if you have a sleep-related condition, like insomnia, or are constantly feeling fatigued during the day to make sure your napping isn’t a sign of a deeper issue.
How to take the perfect nap
To get the most out of your nap, create a calm environment. Make your room dark and quiet (see: blackout curtains and low lighting). Put your phone on silent and set it on the other side of the room (blue light can trick the brain into thinking it's go time). And mayyybe take a nap on your couch or a chair to avoid getting too comfortable.
When caffeine isn’t cutting it, napping can help you find peace in the middle of a hectic day. Fostering a soothing environment and setting a time limit will help you maximize the reset.
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