There’s nothing better than a solid nap on a lazy afternoon at the cottage. While vitamin D-drenched days on a sunny summer dock make napping easy, the stresses of city dwelling can make stealing a midday snooze a tough task.
That doesn’t make them any less important, though. Not only do they boost your mood, they can also improve alertness, concentration, and motor performance. According to Dr. Charles Samuels, the Medical Director of the Centre for Sleep & Human Performance in Calgary, people who take naps during the day have been shown to be more productive than their sleepy counterparts.
So, to make every nap count, follow Samuel’s six tips for better afternoon snoozing.
Create a restful environment
“Unlike nighttime sleep where you want the room temperature to be cool, daytime sleep is ideal when the temperature is warm,” says Samuels. However, much like nighttime sleep, you’ll want a quiet and dark environment. Invest in some quality eyeshades to block out daylight, and earplugs to reduce noise.
Plan your naps accordingly
Not all naps are created equal. “Naps are not designed to replace a good night’s sleep,” says Samuels. According to him, the optimal naptime is between 2 and 4 p.m. But don’t forget to set an alarm—your catnap shouldn’t last for more than 20 to 30 minutes.
Set aside adequate time for recovery
Unlike at the cottage, where a quick snooze can happen anytime, afternoon naps at home are often crammed in between tasks. That’s why it’s important to not only schedule time for the nap itself—it’s also necessary to set aside time for recovery.
“When you wake up from a nap—especially naps that are longer than 30 minutes—you may have ‘sleep inertia,’ which is that groggy feeling,” says Samuels. “You can splash cold water on your face and do a quick jog to reduce the negative effects.” He also advises giving yourself at least 60 minutes before heading to an important event or driving.
Set a nap curfew
While curling up for 30 minutes after you get home from work might seem like nap primetime, Samuels says this isn’t the case.
“Naps within four hours of bedtime—especially longer naps—can interfere with the ability to fall asleep at night,” he says. Instead, he suggests setting a nap cutoff time of 6 p.m., and reducing the length of your naps the closer you get to your nap curfew.
If you can’t find time to truly sleep, relax instead
“Even taking a rest in a busy spot with your eyes closed is effective and provides ‘brain rest’ for rejuvenation,” says Samuels.
Try and replicate vacation mode
The reason why it’s easier to sleep at the cottage is because you’re more relaxed. By reducing stress in your everyday life and ensuring that you have a good night’s sleep, you may also find that you nap easier.