The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s

Despite a large body of science supporting the benefits of taking naps, I almost never sleep during the day.

But this past Saturday, after a full morning watching my daughter compete in the West Coast surfing championships, I felt pretty worn out. And with a big group dinner planned for that night, I went back to our Airbnb in need of a recharge.

Most people would just crawl into bed. Me? I have to do some research first!

It turns out there are several different strategies to catching a few Z’s during the day, and optimal times to employ each of them.

The ideal scenario is timing your nap based on when you started your day.

Dr. Sara Mednick is a sleep researcher and she’s created an interactive “nap wheel” that will tell you when the best time to take a nap is.

The goal is going to sleep at a time when your slow-wave sleep (SWS) will perfectly intersect with rapid-eye movement (REM). Basically, the time when you’ll get the deepest, most relaxing round of rest.

Here’s a link to the nap wheel on her site.

Just as an example, if you woke up at 7:00 AM, your ideal nap time would be 2:00 PM.

Of course, whether or not you can take your nap at the ideal time or not, my personal recommendation is not to hit the sack too late into the day.

I can remember one time when I fell asleep on the couch in the late afternoon daylight only to open my eyes after the sun had already gone down. Not that great!

It also pays to watch the length of time you sleep for.

In fact, experts say there are different types of naps to consider:

1. The Power Nap

If you just need a quick refresh, sleep for somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. You won’t enter really deep sleep so it’s easy to wake back up and return to whatever task is at hand.

2.  The Coffee Nap

This one sounds a little crazy, but it’s the same thing as above only you drink some coffee first. Scientists say this actually works better for two reasons…

Obviously, caffeine is a stimulant. So you’ll automatically feel more alert as it kicks in, which happens to be right around the time you’re waking up.

What’s even cooler is that caffeine competes with adenosine for the receptors in your brain. Since adenosine is a chemical that promotes sleep – and makes you feel more tired – it doesn’t really take hold as much as it would if you hadn’t consumed the caffeine before nodding off.

End result? You may get a double benefit from pre-gaming with the coffee!

Research I’ve read suggests 200 mg of caffeine is a good amount for a coffee nap, though that’s a full two cups worth! 

Also, you should probably avoid taking a coffee nap too close to your regular bedtime. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of disturbing your regular sleep. Most experts recommend stopping caffeine consumption a full six hours before bedtime.

They also recommend drinking your first cup somewhere between 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM but we can talk more about that some other time. 

Now, let’s move on to…

3. The “Almost There” Nap

A one-hour nap is pretty good overall. You’ll get the deepest type of sleep (slow-wave) but it might take you a little while to come around. If you want the best overall result sleep a little longer…

The Ideal Full-Sleep-Cycle Nap

It takes about 90 minutes to run through all the different phases of sleep (light, dreaming, etc.) so sleep for an hour and a half is just about perfect.

You should wake up feeling really good, and since you completed the full cycle it should also be relatively easy to get up.

The Worst Type of Nap

Sleep experts say a 30-minute nap will give you almost zero benefit because you’ll be waking up just as your deeper phases of sleep were getting underway.

So basically, consider a quick power nap with or without some coffee or commit to a longer nap somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes.

What did I end up doing this past weekend?

I had set my alarm for 20 minutes but never heard it go off and woke up after my wife texted me another 45 minutes later!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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