We don’t normally equate taking a nap with productivity. How can you get work done if you’re sleeping in the middle of the day? And wouldn’t that seem lazy? But just as it’s good to take breaks, it can be good to let your mind and body rest with a nap.
I took many naps during my college years, but never really felt the need to after graduating. Before reading Jessica Stillman’s article “Secrets of the Productive Nap” on Inc.com, I was skeptical about whether naps could really help you. Sometimes, the naps would perk me up, but many times, I just woke up groggy and cranky. Focusing again was challenging. Apparently, during those bad times, I was simply napping incorrectly.
Stillman references an infographic on napping from The Boston Globe. She says the first step is to figure out if you are a morning or a night person. Do you naturally wake up bright and early, or do you prefer to stay up late? If you stay up late and wake up around 8 or 9 a.m., you should nap around 2:30 or 3 p.m. If you wake up around 6 a.m., nap around 1 or 1:30 p.m. These times are when you’ll need a nap the most.
Next, you have to determine how long to sleep. This was my problem — I never quite knew what would work. I would nap sometimes before a class and have a terrible time waking up. According to the infographic from The Boston Globe, you should either take a long nap or a very short nap. A long nap would be around 90 minutes, and a short nap around 20 minutes. Here’s a great tip from The Boston Globe infographic for managing those short naps:
A short afternoon catnap of 20 minutes…enhances alertness and concentration, elevates mood, and sharpens motor skills. To boost alertness on waking, you can drink a cup of coffee before you nap. Caffeine requires 20 to 30 minutes to take effect, so it will kick in just as you’re waking.
It might seem counterproductive, but the coffee will help ease you into alertness. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, then try the 90-minute nap. The longer naps help because you have the chance to go through a full sleep cycle. When you hit in between that, you might struggle with waking up.
I certainly wish I had known this in college! But now that we all know the best way to take a nap, find a comfortable and quiet spot. No one works well when they’re tired, so if your body is telling you to take a nap, take one. You’ll be much more prepared to tackle your work afterwards.