While your days of juice boxes and recess might be behind you, it is possible that you are denying yourself a childhood pleasure that you still need – the afternoon nap. Even though this might seem like the purview of the young, a nap can actually be equally restorative for all of those who are young at heart. There’s growing acceptance that napping isn’t just for kids – so, you’re not lazy (or, maybe you are, but not because of the nap).
Napping 101. First of all, if you want to nap properly, you have to learn the house rules. Experts vary on what length of nap is best for you. Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. suggests a 60-90 minute nap, eight to nine hours after you wake up, and some say the benefits can last 24 hours. But the Sleep Research Society says a 10-minute nap is best, and it can give you increased alertness lasting more than two and a half hours. Start with 10-20 minutes and see what works for you. And for an extra boost, have a cup of coffee before a 20-minute nap. It takes about that long for the caffeine to take effect, so you get the restorative benefits of a short sleep plus the coffee kicker.
Slumber for success. Napping has multiple benefits, including reducing fatigue, which comes as no surprise, but also improved mood and better memory. Colleges are supporting student napping, including Wesleyan, University of Miami and California State, to name a few. It might not help you ace organic chemistry, but at least you can combat the all-nighter you pulled to prepare (on the other hand, at the University of Michigan, college-sponsored napping was the brainchild of an aerospace engineering student, so maybe sleeping really does help you become a rocket scientist). Companies also have been recognizing the importance of naps. Uber, Google and Zappos are just a few who are endorsing corporate naptimes. Some are even investing in specially made corporate sleeping pods. (But, uh, don’t plan to install these at home – some cost $13,000 each.)
Not a napper? Here’s how you can tell. Despite the restorative benefits of a nap, it simply doesn’t agree with some people. For example, those who suffer from insomnia are likely to worsen the condition by sleeping during the day. For others, it is simply too difficult to fall asleep during the day, or any place other than their bed. In those cases, listen to your body and follow your instincts. Don’t force it; just be sure to get enough sleep at night.
For the rest of us, it might be time for a new blankie.