We spend a third of our lives asleep but with one in three of us suffering insomnia, we’re not getting enough shuteye to be healthy, and it’s costing us all – in the UK alone 1.9% of GDP, or £40 billion – but what can you do if the recommended 7-8 hours remains elusive? Take a nap during the day – the smart way…
A Quick Kip Can Reboot Your Brain
Whatever your daily routine, a quick kip can boost your brainpower, improving problem solving, creativity, learning and memory, which is good news for our overall performance and productivity. ‘It leaves us feeling happier, more alert and less fatigued. Medically speaking, napping benefits the heart, blood pressure, stress levels and weight management,’ Laura Little, wellbeing expert at CABA tells RSNG.
‘Even a 10-minute nap can immediately improve your performance and mood’
Log A 10-minute Nano-Nap
You might think you need a full sleep cycle, of about 90 minutes, to feel a benefit, but research has shown that even 10 minutes can produce an immediate improvement to your performance and mood, and a 20-minute slumber will improve memory too. Just watch out for sleep inertia, which happens when you’re woken from the final sleep stage of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
‘The REM stage is when you dream. Your brainwaves speed up, your muscles relax, your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow and your heart rate increases. But if you're suddenly woken, your body may be producing high levels of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy,’ says Little.
Schedule Your Sleep
Just as you can train yourself to wake up naturally at the same time every day, so you can schedule a daily nap by repeating it every day. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to use your forward thinking workplace’s ‘sleep pod’, or just grab a sneaky snooze in a meeting room! ‘It's common to experience an energy dip after lunch, so aim to take your power nap in the middle of the day, between 1-3pm if you can. Nap any later and you may find it affects your ability to fall asleep at night,’ says Little.
Stack Slumber Odds In Your Favour
Of course, actually getting to sleep for a nano nap can be challenging. Fortunately there are hacks on hand, and you can use these to get a good night’s sleep too. First the obvious stuff: put your phone on silent, deploy an eyemask and use white noise or over-ear noise cancelling headphones to block out loud distractions. Put on another layer to keep you warm as your body temperature drops, and try to lie down rather than sit because it takes 50% longer to fall asleep sat down.
‘Drinking sour cherry juice gives an average of 34 more minutes sleep’
Boost Melatonin With Cherries
If you spend a lot of time staring at screens (who doesn’t) then you could be blocking the production of sleep-assisting melatonin, leading to poorer quality sleep overall – 39% of Americans use their phones when trying to get to sleep. But rather than reaching for tablet supplements, which only have a half life in your body of 30 minutes to 2 hours, try drinking sour cherry juice twice a day. A recent study showed that this can give an average of 34 more minutes sleep a night, probably due to the melatonin being more biologically available.
Preload Caffeine To Bounce Back
If you’re worried about waking up from a nap in a brain fog just before a crunch meeting, then use the power of caffeine to sidestep a work faux pa. Drinking a cup of coffee just before your nap will limit it to the 20 minutes it takes for the caffeine to kick in, which will make sure you don’t fall foul of sleep inertia and help you to wake up full of beans.
WHAT NEXT? Read more advice from CABA on how to get a good nights sleep, then check out Prof of neuroscience, Matthew Walker’s tips for peaceful sleep.
*Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
Follow the writer @mattfitnessray