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How To Nap | An Expert Guide To The Perfect Siesta

Suggested techniques to get the best out of nap time

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How to nap


Having done a fair bit of research since writing this sleep series, I have found many sleep-related recommendations that you can find amongst articles such as:

  1. Napping Techniques Explained | How To Nap Like Your Heroes
  2. Understanding The Basics Of Sleep
  3. How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

This article provides advice specifically around daytime napping.

Reading the whole series will help you understand how to structure your sleep and how to benefit from sleeping at night and in the day.

When to nap

The simplest answer to this is… whenever you feel tired!

As mentioned in The Rise And Importance Of Power Naps, it’s natural for us to start to lull after dinner, so that should be a trigger for our napping exploits.

Generally, before 12pm is too early because you don’t feel tired (unless you’re a shift worker), and after 4pm is too late because it impacts upon your natural circadian rhythm.

My advice would be to nap if and when you’re tired. Don’t force yourself to nap. Listen to what your body is telling you!

Coffee Nap

Coffee naps are explored in my article on caffeine, so please take a look at that article if you’re interested in understanding what happens when you nap immediately after drinking coffee.

Napping after exercise

Whether or not you nap after exercise is entirely up to you. It is generally not recommended as you feel more energised after exercise, your nervous system is in full flow and cortisol levels are high.

There is also a theory that suggests that taking it easy for a while after exercise, rather than sleeping, may improve your endurance and prevent injury in the long run as you’re training your body to endure more; albeit, at a reduced intensity.

Nap length

This all depends on what you are trying to achieve.

If you want to use sleep as a creative lubricant, try the technique used by Albert Einstein, Aristotle or Salvador Dali.

If you want to use sleep to refresh but don’t have much time, nap like Da Vinci did (but I still recommend sleeping properly at night).

If you have time to refresh fully, use JFK’s method.

The scientific consensus is that you usually want to get enough sleep to fulfil a full sleep cycle or wake before you enter deep sleep.

Waking during deep sleep often makes you feel groggy and disorientated for a while because you’re in a stage of sleep that’s very difficult to get out of.

Dr. Michael Breus seems to concur with the tribal approach, telling Huff Post that “short naps should generally last around 25-30 minutes. If you’re feeling particularly tired and have time for a 90-minute nap, your body will thank you for it. This amount of shuteye will allow your body to go into REM sleep, which can begin to make up for lost sleep and maybe even enhance creativity. The average person’s sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, so you either want to take a 25 to 30-minute nap, or you want to take a 90-minute nap, depending upon how much time you have and how you want to feel when you wake up.”

Where and how to nap

Anywhere and anyhow that suits you!

In a sleep pod, on a desk, in a nice comfy bed!

Choose somewhere that is comfortable, relaxing and doesn’t compromise your posture.

Again, position yourself however you like as long as it doesn’t compromise your posture!

I personally like the Jocko Willink approach, lying on my back and raising my legs. Quite often I nap in a “V” shape on the sofa with my head and feet above my heart, meaning my circularity system is not overworking.

But that’s just me, what works for you?

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