All of us busy college students know that taking naps can do wonders when you’re about to crash after a long day of work or studying at the library. It’s the energizer that we all need to get us through to the weekends, but are you napping the right way? Napping for too long or at very irregular times can hurt you more than help you, so here is my best advice for how to nap healthily:
- Limit your nap time
“Power naps” should be pretty short. Our bodies go through a five-phase sleep cycle and each rotation is about 90-110 minutes. In the third rotation, our body transitions into a deeper sleep state, so when your alarm rings you could be even groggier than you were before. To avoid this, Mayo Clinic recommends that you keep your naps around 20 minutes to remain in the shallower stages of sleep. Your body might be able to tolerate slightly longer naps especially as a young adult, though, so test which duration works best for you.
- Stick to a schedule
Sticking to a routine is great for maximizing productivity in every aspect of your day, so it’s no surprise that sleep is no different. Training your body to get rest at regular hours of the day is a healthy habit to develop. A study at Weill Cornell Medical College found that routine day naps may possibly increase the amount of time your body spends in REM sleep — the most important kind — during the night.
- Nap before 3 p.m.
If you take your nap too late, your rest can cut into your more important and restorative nighttime sleep. This temporary rest could cause you to stay awake for a few extra hours than you normally would have and it could even shift your schedule back and create an unhealthy cycle of sleeping even later and taking longer naps. Remember, naps are only supplemental, so they should not interfere with your bedtime. Of course, the optimal nap time varies for individuals depending on their own workdays, schedules and medications, but it’s a good rule of thumb to take your naps before 3 p.m. hits.
Napping can improve your mood, alertness and even your mental performance, but it can backfire and hurt as much as it helps if done incorrectly. Next time, incorporate these tips to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of napping. Sleep tight!