Limit the length of your snooze
Sleep experts have found that the length of your nap has a huge effect on how alert you feel afterward. It all has to do with sleep cycles. A quick power nap should last between 10 and 26 minutes (it gets this specific for a reason: NASA scientists found that a 26-minute nap improved pilot performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent). An hour-long nap will trigger rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which helps improve memory, and a 90-minutes snooze will get you through a full sleep cycle, which can boost creativity and emotional memory. Beware of sleeping for longer than 90 minutes; you'll enter a new sleep cycle and won't get any additional benefits. Plus, you could negatively affect your nighttime sleep. These tips can help you snag better nighttime sleep
Align the time of your nap with the time you woke up
istock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund
For most people, the best time to nap is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. But if you subscribe to an unusual sleep schedule (super early mornings or late nights), it's best to align the time of your nap to the time you woke up. Psychologist Sara Mednick, PhD, created a nap wheel just for this purpose. All you have to do is enter the time you woke up. The wheel
will output your ideal naptime for that day (for example, if you woke up at 5 a.m., nap at 1 p.m.; for 6 a.m., nap at 1:30 p.m.; for 7 a.m., try 2 p.m.; for 8 a.m., try 2:30 p.m.). Trying to wake up earlier? Check out these tips for being a morning person
Stick to a schedule
For new parents, getting a baby to adhere to a regular nap schedule is vital. The same thing goes for adults. Taking an afternoon nap at the same time each day helps mesh the extra sleep into your circadian rhythm. Your body will begin to recognize when naptime is approaching, and you'll find it easier to nod off faster.
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Consider a 'caffeine nap'
It sounds counter-intuitive, but sipping coffee right before a nap may be the perfect aid for optimal alertness, according to Japanese research. Since caffeine takes 20 to 30 minutes to take full effect, you’ll feel even more awake after your 20-minute rest. As Newsweek put it, “think of a nap as an extra shot in your latte.”
Find a quiet, dark place to lie down
According to MentalFloss.com, it takes about 50 percent longer to fall asleep sitting up than lying down. That’s why we sleep so poorly on planes and trains! Pick a dark, cozy place that’s not too warm or too chilly. Prevention.com recommends napping on the couch instead of in bed, so you’re less tempted to snooze for too long. Surprisingly, the best place to crash may be a hammock if you have one. A Swiss study found that people fell asleep faster and had deeper sleep when they napped in a hammock than in a bed. That same rocking motion that lulls babies to sleep works wonders for grown-ups too. Enlist the help of a sleep mask to eliminate light from your humble, hanging abode.
Keep yourself warm
The temperature in the room of your sleep space has a huge impact on the quality of your snooze. Experts suggest a sleep temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
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Get into a half-crawl position
Author Tim Ferriss recommends this trick for falling asleep faster in his book The 4-Hour Body: assume the military half-crawl position. To do this, lie on your chest with your head on a pillow and facing to the right. Place both arms straight by your sides, palms up. Bring your right arm up so that your right hand is under your head. Pull your right knee out to the side so it is bent at approximately 90 degrees. This position makes it almost impossible to move without lifting your entire body off the bed. Less fidgeting has a calming effect on the nervous system, which results in faster sleep.
Nap at work
While many workplaces are finally recognizing the benefits of midday naps on employee performance, it's highly probable that yours still hasn't. “If you’re lucky enough to have an office, shut the door and just don’t tell anyone you’re napping!” Rebecca Robbins, PhD, co-author of Sleep for Success!, told Daily Burn. “I can’t tell you how many executives have shown me their sleeping bags under their desks.”
Head outside afterward
If you have time after your nap to get outside, aim to do so. Spending time in the sunshine can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. "Sunlight can also increase the body's production of serotonin, which lifts mood and increases energy," internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, told Real Simple
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Take a stretch
Restart your day with at least one or two minutes of intentional stretching and breathing. If you only have time for one exercise, clasp you hands behind your back and take deep breaths for 30 seconds. The stretch will open your chest and allow you to take deeper, more invigorating breaths throughout your afternoon. Try these desk exercises for more energy
Don't worry if you can't sleep
In his book The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough, Matthew Edlund, MD, argues that rest—in its spiritual (i.e. meditation or prayer), mental, physical, and social forms—is just as curative as sleep. One exercise he recommends is a simple form of controlled concentration. Roll your eyes into the top of your head as if you're staring at the ceiling. With your eyes looking up, close your eyelids. Concentrate on keeping your eyes rolled up, and take at least one deep breath in and out.