Between jobs, kids, relationships and life admin finding a window of “me time” is a luxury rarely afforded to most adults. But on that rare occasion, maybe while your boo is away on a work trip, the kids are at their grandparents or the roofer called to cancel, you find yourself with a few hours entirely at your disposal.
This is such a rarity that you might find yourself stumped with how you should enjoy these blissful hours – binge-watch your favourite show? Go for a workout? A bit of luxurious self-care? Try out a new recipe? Well, why not reconnect with an activity that once upon a time was a regular occurrence, and certainly one that you took for granted in your foolish youth – taking a nap!
I personally jump at every opportunity to take a nap, especially when the weather outside is vile – it’s almost like giving everything bad in the world that finger and opting for a bit of self-love instead. Besides the sublime glory of wrapping yourself up in your duvet and embracing doing nothing, taking a nap actually has a world of health benefits that make this seemingly lazy activity a worthwhile pursuit.
The ideal amount of time for a cat nap is around 15-30mins or, if you have more time, around an hour. When we sleep, we go through a sleep cycle, which includes deeper stages of sleep that are harder to wake up from. The disruption of said sleep cycle is why you wake up feeling groggy and tired, so if you’re going to commit to a longer nap, it’s better to complete a whole sleep cycle to make the most of your doze.
There are quite a few handy apps that can help you track your sleep cycle, both for naps and to monitor your overall quality of sleep. Either way, it’s important not to overdo it, since long naps or trying to get some shut-eye too close to your normal bedtime can mess up your natural rhythm.
So what benefits can a power nap give you?
Improved Memory and Performance
It might seem paradoxical to think that taking a snooze will make you perform better, but research actually firmly supports this. A nap can help you feel more alert and improves reaction time. For people that do shift work or have a long drive ahead, a nap is actually a great way to improve your concentration and feel less tired. Napping also shows improvement of your short term memory and even boosts logical thinking and processing new information. So for all you students out there cramming for a big test, a nap will actually help you retain and recall that information later!
Relief of stress and fatigue
This should come as no surprise, but so many people underestimate just how much of an impact stress and chronic sleep deficit have on your body and mind. Sleeping is the body’s time to heal, so when you routinely don’t get enough of it, you’re not letting yourself recover properly. No doubt you’ve heard of burnout! Well, introducing naps into your routine whenever you’re able can massively stave this off.
Naps reduce your overall built up of fatigue, but also reduce irritability, aggression, moodiness and lack of motivation. Stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, from bad skin, to weight gain, to high blood pressure and heart problems! Stress also pumps adrenaline all over your body, and an excess of adrenaline can put a big strain on your liver – which is where adrenaline is broken down – and you’re probably aware of how important your liver is to your overall health.
So turn off that next episode of whatever it is, put the laundry down (it will always always be there) and use that window of quiet serenity to recharge your batteries a bit. Naps can actually help reduce your reliance on caffeine to get through the day so do give it a try! Try to nap somewhere comfy, dark and quiet and if a full-blown nap isn’t your jam, a bit of meditation or even just sitting comfortably with your eyes closed can help you feel better – maybe even throw on some rain or ocean sounds on your phone to help you escape for a little bit!