Napping is to high schoolers as Beyoncé is to the average, sane citizen.
In other words, sleep is not just important…managing it in a healthy and productive way is vital to a happy and successful school year!
But napping isn’t just about setting an alarm and roughing it through an all-nighter. There are tons of tips and tricks that you can use to optimize your sleep and amount of free time. Yes, you too can become a successful power napper!
(But not as successful as Beyoncé.)
But why is napping so important anyways?
Researchers at Harvard and elsewhere have conducted dozens of experiments proving that sleep improves learning, memory, and creative thinking. Even very short catnaps of six minutes can improve information retention. They can also:
- Reduce stress
- Decrease your risk of heart disease
- Reduce drowsiness and fatigue
- Sharpen motor skills
- Restore alertness
- Improve cognitive performance
- Decrease errors and accidents
- Enhance mood
- Reduce mistakes and accidents
- Increase alertness directly after nap and up to a few hours later in the day
There are some people who claim there are strong negatives, too, of course…but I mean, these people have clearly never experienced the glory of a power nap.
They say that naps can leave people with sleep inertia: a short period of grogginess and disorientation after deep sleep…but this is more prone to happen if you aren’t napping correctly. Also, napping in the afternoon or a very long nap can impair nighttime sleep…but again, this is preventable!
How do I nap most effectively?
Check out these tips the next time you decide to take a doze.
1) Consider duration. Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better! Different lengths of your nap will have different results.
a) 10-20 minutes. The 20-minute power nap is the most popular and praised power napping period. It’s good for alertness and motor learning skills, like typing. Some claim that longer periods will lead to sleep grogginess and sleep inertia.
b) 30-60 minutes. This will induce slow-wave sleep, which is ideal for decision-making skills and memorization. Anything longer than 30 minutes will lead to deep sleep, which may or may not be ideal for your situation.
c) 60-90 minutes. This can cause rapid eye movement or REM sleep, which helps in making new brain connections and creative problem solving. 90 minutes is approximately one full REM cycle, so if you have the time, this can be ideal in fully recharging your battery!
2) Sleep upright. This will help you avoid deep sleep and the dreams that follow. If you’re dreaming during a small power nap, it means you’re sleep-deprived! Forget small naps—you need to recharge more fully.
3) What time will create your perfect nap? Sometimes, sleeping within three hours of bedtime interferes with your nighttime sleep. Also, take a look at this nifty nap wheel! This shows the ideal time to take a nap.
4) Find the right place. Sleep somewhere dark with minimum noise, so that you can fall asleep faster. Wear a sleep mask if darkness is not an option. Also, make sure to stay warm—your body temperature drops when you sleep.
5) Try taking a caffeine nap. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine right before bed will not interfere with your sleep. It takes about 45 minutes for caffeine to fully affect your body. There have been various studies linking caffeine with more restful naps. The caffeine will slowly affect your body, so you’ll be a lot more alert and productive after you wake up.
6) Create a routine. Consistency and a regular nap schedule can result in faster and quicker sleep. Some experts claim that prime napping time lies in the middle of the day, between 1 and 3 PM.
7) Set an alarm! How could we forget? Setting an alarm is important because otherwise…well…that nap might transition into a true coma. For real. High schoolers are practically in a constant state of disturbed hibernation. Make sure to set a few alarms, so that you’ll wake up even if the first alarm doesn’t do the job. If your half-asleep self enjoys the snooze button a bit too much, place your alarm on the other side of the room. By the time you walk over, you’ll be fairly awake.
After you wake up, you want to be fully alert. Make sure to:
- Follow up with physical exercise.
- Wash your face.
- Expose yourself to light.
- Have a light snack.
1) You might not need a nap. Instead of napping, try taking a walk outside! Sometimes, you’re not actually sleepy—you just need some sunshine. And I don’t mean that in a metaphorical way. Your body begins producing melatonin, a sleep chemical, when your core body temperature drops in the afternoon. Being outside in the light will prevent melatonin production.
2) Try a cool “Hypnagogic Nap.” Dali, Aristotle, and Einstein often harnessed the power of Stage 2 naps to unlock creative ideas. It’s actually really cool.
a) Sleep sitting upright.
b) Hold something in your hand.
c) Fall asleep.
d) As you fall asleep, you’ll drop what you’re holding.
e) Wake up!
f) Dali used a key and placed a plate below so that the key would make a loud clattering sound. Apparently, this sudden disruption will leave you feeling inspired.
And that’s it! Enjoy and catch some z’s. Long live sleep.
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About Maddi Lee
Maddi is currently a high school junior in southern California. She is an avid freelance writer and has been featured in multiple literary publications and anthologies. When she isn't writing, she loves traveling, doodling, and most of all, sleeping. Through her own experience and passion, she hopes to help guide fellow students through the roller coaster that is SAT and college admissions...that is, as long as she survives the journey herself!
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