Gave up your midday snooze back in preschool? You might want to rethink your afternoons—just a tad. Our bodies crave naps for a reason. Studies show that following a toddler’s lead and taking even just a twelve-minute mini-slumber makes us smarter, more creative, and bolsters our memories. Naps increase mental well-being, lower blood pressure, and significantly reduce heart disease risk as well. No wonder so many Europeans take siesta, and some businesses even offer nap rooms.
So, next time you feel the afternoon sleepies come on, consider refraining from that cuppa. And before you don your lavender-scented light-blocking eye mask, know that timing, length and other sleep habits influence the nap’s effectiveness. Consider these tips to get the most from your little lights-out.
- Pick one of these durations (in minutes): 15, 20, 45 or 90. In studies, naps as short as 12 minutes have beneficial effects. Napping for up to 45 minutes allows for deeper sleep, but beware: unless you can stretch it to a full 90 minutes so that your body can cycle through all stages of sleep completely, you may feel groggy or disoriented from a longer nap.
- Take advantage of a post-lunch energy dip. It’s natural to snooze after eating when digestion commands more of your blood flow, dulling alertness.
- Go to a dark place. Ever seen those alien-looking ostrich pillows? You probably don’t need anything so bulky—or silly looking—but the less daylight to disturb your nap, the better. A simple eye pillow can do the trick.
- If you still find it difficult to doze, try listening to slow, soothing music or guided meditations for sleep. Bonus: This helps block distracting ambient daytime sounds, too.