Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Aging

The Habit One in Three Adults Admits To

By Sheryl Kraft

Share on:

There are some healthy habits that people are proud to admit to: not smoking, eating lots of fruits and veggies, getting regular exercise.

And then there are those habits that they keep secret, for fear they’ll be thought of as lazy or indulgent or just plain foolish.

One in three adults, according to a Pew Research Center Trends survey, admits to napping. The other two-thirds? Maybe they do, or maybe they don’t.

But maybe they SHOULD.

And since so many of you commented on my last post, "5 Simple Steps to Better Health" that you should nap more (or at all), I decided I’d dedicate this post to that subject.

Lo and behold – no kidding! - the friendly FedX guy delivered a book I had long been anticipating to my doorstep this morning. A while back, I interviewed social psychologist James B. Maas, a renowned sleep expert, researcher, Cornell University professor, and all-around nice guy. In fact, he’s the one who coined the phrase, “power nap.” He told me a new book was in the works. And now, it’s here: Sleep for Success-Everything You Must Know About Sleep But Are Too Tired To Ask is jam-packed with solid sleep advice, including a chapter on one of my favorite things: napping.

(Make sure you continue reading for some great napping tips – and a chance to win a copy of this fabulous book)

Personally, I love naps. I try to take them on the weekends – when I have the luxury of time - although I’m convinced I could easily take one every single day. I can feel my body slow down, feeling like it’s being pulled to the ground by gravity, right around the same time each day – about 3PM. If I can’t nap, I try to boost my energy by some deep breathing, eating a snack, taking my dog out for a walk, or just powering through.

Naps have amazing benefits. They can help you learn – and retain what you learn – better. They can lower your risk of heart disease. They reduce stress, boost your mood and increase your productivity.

Convinced?

Lots of people, though, have trouble napping, are sleepy after napping, and haven’t figured out the fine art of doing it successfully. Here, some answers compliments of Dr. Maas.

How long should you nap?  

There are two options, depending on the time you have:

  1. A twenty-minute nap will take you through the first two stages of sleep, which are relatively light. If you wake up at the end of this cycle – 20 minutes – you’ll feel rejuvenated rather than groggy, since you’ll be waking during a light cycle.
  2. A ninety-minute nap will take you through one complete cycle and wake you during Stage 2 of the next cycle, which is a light cycle.

Of course, everyone’s body clock differs, says Maas, so you might need to experiment and tweak this just a bit.

Will napping make it harder to fall asleep come bedtime?

Usually not, unless you have a history of insomnia. But it’s important to follow the napping “rules” and not overdo it on the amount of time you spend napping. Maas advises to experiment first with a 20-minute nap to see how it goes.

Can napping make up for lost sleep?

While it’s possible that it can, it’s by no means a substitute for bad sleep habits. There’s nothing more beneficial than consistent and restful nighttime sleep.

What are some tips for napping for those of us who just can’t do it?

Preparing for a nap takes (a little) work!

Try to wipe your worries, like that growing to-do list, from your mind. Write them down before you lay down (and tell yourself that when you wake, you’ll be so much better equipped to deal with them). And, although these may be obvious, so many of us don’t do them and miss our turn at a quality nap:

  • Close the door.
  • Turn down the lights.
  • Block out light with an eyeshade and noise with things like earplugs, a fan, noise-canceling headphones, or anything else that is white noise.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Put your computer into sleep mode (after all, computers deserve naps, too).
  • Get comfy. While it may not mean PJs and your blankie, get as close to comfort as you can. Lie down or lean back in your chair, with your head and limbs supported so you don’t wake yourself by jerking either one (I’ve jerked myself awake on many occasions – isn’t it just a wee bit humiliating when you’re on a train or airplane?)
  • Get cool. Optimal nighttime sleeping temperature, according to researchers, is 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

If you’d like to win a copy of Sleep for Success! all you have to do is be the fifteenth person to comment on this post. It can be anything – why you love to nap, your experience with napping, why you can’t nap; maybe even a tip of your own for a better nap.

Subscribe to Midlife Matters by Email

Comments

I'm so buying this book! I need all the help I can get.

It appears to be either sold out or terribly expensive. $77 on Amazon. :(

Huh? $77? I just checked, and it's $20.49. Thinking it would be that much money would absolutely make me lose sleep...

I'm not sure if my other comment came through, but I was interested in checking out the book, but it's like $77 on Amazon. Do you have a better place to buy it through?

Wish I could nap! I really envy people who can. I simply cannot clear my mind. Too much going on.

Well, I'll at least get the ball rolling toward the 15th comment by saying I LOVE TO SLEEP. I love naps. I love a long night's rest. Without alarms or plans, I'll easily sleep 8-9-10 hours a night. So, I'm guessing I sleep more than most people, and I'm actually pretty proud of it. It's just one way I show that my health comes first.

When people brag about "not needing" much sleep, I simply do NOT buy it. I think they've just busied themselves so much that sleep gets dropped from their priority list.

Good for you, Roxanne. I agree- I can't see why people think that being sleep-deprived is a medal of honor...I'd feel pretty lousy not getting consistently good sleep. If I miss one or two nights of solid sleep, I'm a mess; in need of a really good nap!

I love short little power naps - really about 5 minutes - late in the afternoon. Those are what get me through the rest of the evening. I don't often get to take them, however.

It's amazing how even 5 minutes of a nap is precious, isn't it?

I love napping, but always feel like it's an indulgence when I've got so much to do every day. But really, it sounds like my productivity is better with the nap than without it. Great news.

Cant', can't, can't nap. I like the idea of it. I try it on occasion. But rarely can I get to sleep, and if I do, I just feel junk for the rest of the day!

I like the idea of a nap, but fitting it in--not so easy.

I agree. Fitting in in IS the big challenge. Falling asleep? That's the easy part.

along the lines of helping you with what you learn, Sheryl, I know someone who is a songwriter and finds that when she's wrestling with an idea, one of those 20 minute naps helps her sort things out. people make fun of her for it, she says, but hey, it works for her, and she has a great music career.

So interesting, Kerry. Thanks for sharing that story. Another argument for a good snooze.

I absolutely love your tips on how to nap--it's like you wrote this post just for me. Maybe, just maybe, you've convinced me to try it. Now the trick will be waking up and not being a grouch like I've been in the past.

I hope so, Jesaka. Make sure to set your alarm clock so you don't sleep too long; hence, the grouch syndrome.

Optimal napping for me is around 1 pm. They're especially important if I am getting sick or am run down from not enough sleep or too much work

I always say that a nap cures all ills...and it is amazing how it really helps if you're under the weather.

I don't know if it's still called this, but there is nothing like a power nap to set the world straight!

Yep! Power Nap is the term I invented 38 years ago-- and it's still in use :) It was the question on "Cash Cab" a few months back--earning the cab riders some nice miney-- but they got it wrong :) They said "Cat Nap."W

Yep! Power Nap is the term I invented 38 years ago-- and it's still in use :) It was the question on "Cash Cab" a few months back--earning the cab riders some nice miney-- but they got it wrong :) They said "Cat Nap."W

Oh, no, Jim...they should know better! Wish I was in that cab. I would have raked in all the dough :)

Yes,indeed - the author of this book is the very one who coined the phrase, "power nap!"

OK, here's my napping follow-up question - and I know I won't be the 15th person to comment, but oh well. What if it takes me 20 minutes to fall asleep? I always need a little "wind-down" period before I can really drop off, so I always need to reserve a full hour for midday naps. Any way to speed up the process?

I love to nap, Sheryl! It's one of life's greatest pleasures--and one of the great advantages of being your own boss. I find that even just closing my eyes for 10 or 15 minutes without really falling asleep is very rejuvenating.

Good post!

I agree, Nancy. Even if you can't fall asleep, just taking that time out and closing your eyes goes a long way.

So...that's why I'm drawn to my bed about 2:30 p.m. every day. I read a chapter, then doze off. Feels great and I definitely have more energy to finish the day.

I'm jealous!

Wonderful advice. At last -- someone's taking naps seriously. I'd been sneaking around for far too long; now I'll try bragging about my guilty habit.

No more sneaking around, Ruth...at least not in this company! Time to come clean, with pride :)

Yeah, napping in public (like on an airplane) can be embarrassing. My problem is that my jaw relaxes and my mouth hangs open like a dolt.
I love naps, but generally find myself thinking--right after I do this...until it is time for supper and I've missed the nap.

Ha! If I'm on an airplane and see someone with their mouth hanging open, I promise not to laugh.

I'm a lousy napper. I wish I could, but I don't have the knack.

Maybe it's like that old saying, practice, practice, practice. Worth a try, no?

These are great tips but I can't nap. I'm just a horrible napper. No matter what I do. But I CAN go to bed earlier. That usually works for me!

As you get older, napping is a gift. So is the time in which to do it. As of late I have been taking naps in the late afternoon sunshine on my patio in my chaise lounge--so peaceful and restful. And we all should know---Rest is Restorative.
Hmmm...I think it is time for a nap right now!

Nice to see you here, Steffie! You sound like you are really a great napper - sunshine on a patio on a chaise sounds heavenly. And so, so restorative. Lucky you.

I could so go a nap -- right now. Not going to happen but glad to know that if I ever get to sneak one in it's good for my health.

Add new comment