The ways in which we’re looking after ourselves are vastly different to what they were this time last year. For many, the shifting attitudes around the idea of wellbeing have been brought about by the emotional toll of the pandemic, and now more than ever, how we feel is being placed centre stage.
And there are lots of ways to enjoy a moment of TLC, some like to go for a run in the fresh air, whilst others might bake a cake. But for the purpose of our blog today, we’re going to be dipping into perhaps everyone’s favourite moment of me-time: napping.
Napping is great, because although it’s just a brief touch of sleep, it’s still able to achieve many of the same benefits; even though they’re not as full of potential as they would be from a longer period. It’s a brilliantly healthy habit to cultivate, and many of life’s problems can be set on snooze with the simple power of a nap.
Why Are We Napping More?
One of the biggest drivers of the nap-movement has to be improved access to comfortable spaces. Gone are the days when the cold pale walls of your office were all you saw for eight hours a day.
Now, with the popularity of work-from-home models taking off, people are finding out that the ability to take a nap whenever they want to is more than just a distant dream.
There are also other factors to consider when feeling like a nap has become a familiar sensation. The pandemic has been a hugely stressful and emotionally demanding time, and taking a mid-afternoon break may have become a habit for most people as they turn to the powers of sleep rejuvenation to be able to emotionally process the situation. Although thankfully, it now appears that the pandemic is behind us (touch wood).
There’s also the instinct factor to consider when it comes to napping. This really interesting study found that the mid-afternoon energy slump is the body’s way of saying that it needs a nap. The studies showed that the natural rhythm of the sleep actually follows two parts if left undisturbed by outside influences; such as blue light for example.
The first period of sleep would naturally fall between 12am and 6am, followed by a second shorter nap taking place later in the day around 2pm.
This is really interesting because that feeling of feeling tired just after lunchtime doesn’t always mean that you’ve slept badly the night before, but rather, that the body has an instinctive readiness to nap around that time.
Listening to the body and being able to give it what it needs is really important, and especially so with something as complex as sleep.
How Long Should I Take a Nap For?
Naps don’t need to be hours and hours long, and many naturally fear that napping for too long during the day will take a toll when the nighttime comes around; and they’re right! Our advice would be to aim to nap for 20 minutes.
Although it’s short, 20 minutes will allow your body and mind just enough time to rest and recentre itself without entering the deeper stages of sleep.
If you have the time and need for a longer nap, we’d recommend anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes. This time frame will give your sleep cycle just enough time to dip in and out of the non-REM cycle, the deepest level of sleep, so that you’ll be in the lighter stages when it’s time to wake up.
Any time outside of these frames will cause problems. If you took a nap for 45 minutes for example, you’d emerge feeling more tired and exhausted because you’ll have woken up on the wrong side of the cycle. It’s a bit like baking a cake in an oven; don’t open the door before the time’s up!
Shorter naps, also known as ‘power naps’, are still highly effective if you're restricted for time. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits waiting for you on the other side of those 20 minutes:
Light sleep is the perfect opportunity for the body to carry out some much-needed house keeping, and it does this by removing the waste metabolites and neurotoxic waste that accumulates in the system during the time that the body’s awake.
Once these toxins are removed, the energy stores of the brain are replenished, meaning that the connections it relies on are able to communicate much better.
Taking a nap is great for your mental health, and studies have repeatedly cited the habit as a major remedy to depression, anxiety and mental tension.
Taking a moment out of a busy day, just to be with yourself, allows for the dark clouds of the mind to be cleared, and can increase your clarity of thinking whilst improving your perspective over a certain situation.
Shorter naps are particularly good at restoring the body’s energy levels and stalling the progress of fatigue.
This study highlights how they’re actually much better at completing this task than just having a quiet moment to yourself, however it’ll take more than just a light nap to remedy long-term fatigue completely, and anyone who is suffering from this experience should head on over to our tired-tossing blog post here.
In very much the same way that napping allows the body to clear the build up of neurotoxins, in turn improving the brain’s level of responsiveness, the same process is capable of reconsolidating the mental capacity to remember, with better cognitive processing being one of the key pillars of light sleep; a valuable piece of information to remember if you’re ever having trouble studying.
Final Tips for Having a Great Nap
There’s no one that knows the ins and outs of napping quite like the team here at SMUG HQ, and we’ve managed to get the process down to a T.
Darkness is going to be your best friend when it comes to napping, because a darker environment allows the body to begin releasing the sleep hormone melatonin, which will help you to drift off.
However, this setting can be especially hard to find if you’re trying to score a nap whilst on your lunch break at work, or if you’re in an environment where it’s tricky to find a patch of darkness.
However, you can have the best of both worlds when you have this 3D Blackout Sleep Mask on your side. It uses highly-innovative blackout technology amongst an eyelash-friendly design to give you darkness on demand.
Another piece of advice we’d like to share is to try and set your napping to a schedule. The body loves a rhythm and it’ll be able to reap the benefits of a nap much more efficiently if it knows when to expect its arrival.
We’d also recommend not napping too late in the day, or too close to bedtime, as this could disturb your ability to achieve longer-term sleep.
We know this is going to sound completely mad, but a really good piece of napping advice we’d like to share with you involves the use of caffeine. Caffeine is usually associated with waking up, and is the entire point of your ‘morning coffee’.
However, when married together with napping and when consumed at just the right moment, caffeine can actually benefit your naps, and can lead you to waking up feeling fresher than ever before.
Thankfully, this isn’t too good to be true, and if you’re interested in enjoying the benefits of this technique, try drinking a small cup of coffee the next time you’re about to take a nap.
For more great napping tips and for products that’ll help you get there, please take a visit to our full collection here.
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