Naps are like snacks—with a good game plan, they can revitalize you, improving your mood and cognitive function, says Dr. Christopher Winter, medical director of the sleep center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia. Done incorrectly, however, napping can make you groggy and harm nighttime sleep.
Twenty to 30 minutes is the sweet spot, Dr. Winter says. Some experts believe as little as 10 minutes can give you a mental boost, but if you need to make up for lost sleep, Dr. Winter says you can go longer—just cap your nap at an hour, and get it in sometime between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to ensure it doesn’t interfere with nighttime sleep.
How to Have the Best Nap Ever (and Repeat 364 Times a Year)
- Don’t nap whenever. Think of the nap like a meal. Just like you might look forward to eating lunch around 1 p.m. every day, you want your brain to anticipate the nap. Getting on a nap schedule will make the nap seem like a reward in itself, just like lunch or dinner.
- Pick an end time and stick to it. Don't allow yourself to sleep later just because you didn't fall asleep immediately. If it’s taking you a while to fall asleep, you might not need the nap.
- Hold yourself accountable. If your naptime passes, you don't get to nap.
- Create an ideal sleep environment. Sleep in a dark room, perhaps with a blanket that has an unusual tactile feel, like fake fur—wrapping it around you can be your cue to sleep or your reward for napping. Take it a step further by spraying your pillow with lavender, which may promote sleep by slowing the heart rate to relax you. Silence is best, too, but a good white-noise machine can counteract a noisy environment. The Marpac Dohm is the National Sleep Foundation’s top pick.