The Best Napping How To’s

If you read last month’s article “Napping is Good for You,” or have personally experienced the benefits of napping, you may be curious about napping “best practices.” While there is no absolute list of Do’s and Don’ts, there are some specific napping habits focused on “when, where, and how long” that have proven effective for many. More specifically, you may wonder:

When should I take a nap?

Most experts suggest planning your nap between 1 and 3 pm. If you try to nap earlier than 1 pm you might find that you are not sleepy enough to settle into a nap. On the other hand, by napping after 3 pm you could jeopardize a good night’s sleep – something you don’t want to do! I have found that the best time for me to nap easily and well is just after eating a healthy lunch. This was a habit I developed while our mini poodle, Miss Noelle, was still with us. If I remained typing away at my computer after lunch, she – a bona fide napping expert – offered up a persistent stare that reminded me it was time for “our” nap! Keep in mind also, that your schedule, age, and medication use should be considerations. Getting the input of your doctor might be helpful.

Where is the best place to take a nap? 

Yes, your very own bed is certainly an option, and certainly my favorite. Others prefer more of a “designated” napping spot, like a sofa, or a large, comfy chair. Either way, make sure it’s dark, on the cool side, and quiet. As lawn crews abound for many months of the year here, I often wear ear plugs to drown out that persistent noise. You might even add an eye mask or an essential oils diffuser to take your napping environment to the next level. I even know a few people who schedule naps – real naps! – in their cars on long trips. So, consider pulling over in a safe spot, getting cozy, putting on your shades and giving it a try!

And now for the big question…

How long should I nap?

Jeff Rodgers, DMD, a certified sleep expert with the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep and Breathing Academy suggests “For most people, the 20- to 30-minute ‘power nap’ is the sweet spot for boosting alertness and focus.” The Mayo Clinic recommends naps that range from a mere 10 to 20 minutes as these are less likely to cause drowsiness upon waking. They also suggest giving yourself a few moments of “re-entry” before diving into tasks or activities. But if it’s a “power nap” that you’re after, one that will boost your alertness and focus, go for those recommended 20 to 30 minutes of nap time. And take note if, when you exceed 30 minutes, you experience grogginess. If so, you’ll know to cut back on the length of your nap next time.

Any variations on the theme?

Well, yes! It’s the “coffee nap,” which some folks swear by. Simply drink a cup of coffee just before settling in for your nap. By the time you wake up, the caffeine will have kicked in and you will feel refreshed and productive. As someone who has a rough time falling asleep, I think I’lI pass on this nap variation!


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