How To Take The Perfect Nap in 7 Steps

by Meredith Lepore

Is there anything much better than a nap in this world? 

Arianna Huffington believes so fiercely in the power of sleep that she had nap rooms built at The Huffington Post offices for that very purpose. And she is in good company. Charlie Rose told reporters, "If the choice for me is 30 minutes of more preparation for an interview or a 30-minute nap, I'll take the nap. It just energizes me.” Thomas Edison also believed an afternoon nap was one of the very best things. If he hadn’t gotten a good nap in, you could very well be sitting in the dark right now (though that could be conducive to napping.) 

But Huffington, Rose and Edison aren’t alone in believing that naps are powerful tools. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 85 percent of mammals sleep in short spurts throughout the day. Plus, it turns out napping could actually make you better at your job. A recent study from the University of Michigan presented test subjects with an impossible drawing project. Half the subjects took an hour-long nap while the other half watched a nature documentary. The film watchers tried the task and then gave up after 45 seconds, while the nappers worked on the project for twice as long. Another study found from NASA looked at 747 pilots and found that those who were allowed to nap — on average 25.8 minutes a day — performed better when it came to reaction times and judgment than the non-napping pilots.  If that’s not reason for taking a 20-minute refuel break, then what is? 

So what’s the best way to take an amazing nap? Here are a few tips. 

TIMING

Though many of us feel our most lethargic during the dreaded 4 PM slump, it is actually better to nap in the morning or right after lunch. If you wait too long after lunch to nap, your inner clock will allow you to fall into a deep sleep, which may leave you feeling very groggy for the rest of the evening. 

ACCEPTANCE

Never apologize for napping. It’s a proactive step to enhance your energy and performance. Glamour Magazine Editor-In-Chief Cindi Leive joined Huffington in 2010 to challenge more women to put sleep first. Leive suggests literally scheduling sleep into your day. ”You just want to take the commitments you have to your own health and your own happiness as seriously as you take the commitments you’ve made to your colleagues and to your family,” she says. 

FIND A QUIET PLACE

If you can, get away from your desk and any screens (that includes your phone.) Go to a place where people won’t disturb you, and try lowering the shades or wearing an eye mask. Darkness helps to increase melatonin production which can stimulate sleep. 

DIET

Though caffeine and sugar are often our first choices when we feel tired, steer clear – and that includes dark chocolate. Stick to protein and calcium for your pre-nap meal or snack. 

LIE DOWN

If you can, get horizontal. Though you may be so tired it feels like you could sleep standing up, lying down is the optimal position. If you can’t find a bed, do your best to find something bed-like. 

SMELL IT UP

The right smells can also help you get your nap on. A little lavender oil can go a long way, according to this study. Try a scented sleep mask or a little spritz in the nap room. 

DURATION

This really depends on your schedule and needs. For most people, a good power nap (usually 20 to 30 minutes) is sufficient and allows you to increase your alertness, energy levels, motor learning, and motor performance. Plus, it helps get rid of a lot of useless information you are storing up there (Bachelor recaps) which will help improve memory for important things (did you know three more elements were just added to the periodic table?) If you have more time and have been neglecting sleep recently, the Lazy Man’s nap (50-90 minutes) may be the way to go. Just don’t let it throw off your sleep schedule. 

Go forth and nap!