A lot of people feel guilty for taking a time out and grabbing a little shut-eye outside of the time they normally dedicate to sleep. A buddy of mine calls this “Forbidden Sleep” and he says it’s the best sleep ever. I have to agree, naps are pleasant. But napping is often seen as an indulgence taken when we skip out on our to-do list and this leads to that guilty feeling of “I should really be cleaning the house, catching up on office work, walking the dogs, paying bills….” and on and on.
It’s time we changed the way we think about napping. Napping can help you meet your daily requirement of 6 to 9 hours of sleep for every 24 hours of life, it can help pay back your sleep debt, prevent future fatigue and act as an effective countermeasure to reduce fatigue you may already be experiencing. Studies have also shown that napping can decrease subjective and objective sleepiness, improve cognitive function and psychomotor performance and augment short-term memory and mood. With all the benefits napping provides, it deserves a better name than forbidden sleep. How about we think of napping as a period of rejuvenation and we use a more positive term like “Sweet Siesta”?
Here’s how to enjoy a better siesta:
- First, you need to find the right location. It should be a quiet place with something comfortable to lay down on. A reclined chair, a bed, a sofa, or a yoga mat will all work. If you can’t ensure quiet surroundings, then try a pair of silicone putty-type ear plugs. They don’t block out all sound, but they do muffle it enough to make it easier to sleep.
- The location should also be a little cool. Your body can be warm, but keep your head in the cooler temperature. Between 17 and 22°c is best.
- Adjust the humidity to between 30 and 50% in your siesta spot. This will help you breath more efficiently.
- Now choose how long you want to sleep and set an alarm to get you up at the right time. As a general rule, more sleep is always better. But you also don’t want to use up all your sleep time during the siesta and make it hard to sleep during your next sleep period. Instead, choose a duration that is close to 20 minutes or close to 80 minutes. This will give you some leftover sleep for your normal sleep period. Plus, studies have shown that sleep inertia impairs your performance more when your nap is right in the middle at 50 minutes. This means it will be easier to get up and get going if you nap for 20 or 80 minutes.
- Next, take five minutes to power down and zone out. This means turning off your phones, tablets, TV’s and other electronics. It also means allowing your mind to slow down and relax. Try reading something boring or flipping through the pictures in a magazine without reading any articles.
- Now make it dark, pitch black is best. If you can’t control the light levels, use a comfortable eye mask. The best ones are made of a neoprene style material that bubbles out over the eyes. They are breathable and cool and the bubble lets you blink your eyes without being tickled by fabric.
- The final step is to enjoy the break even if you don’t sleep.
If you want to try the ultimate in napping, watch for a Minute Suites location on your next airport visit. I stumbled across one at DFW a couple of weeks ago. This company has got it right. They provide short term napping suites (think micro-hotel) that are designed to help you enjoy the best nap ever. You can reserve a suite for as little as an hour.
All of the suites include:
- The NAP26 audio program
- DirecTV and computer combo
- Complimentary NetFlix
- Free hi speed internet & Wi Fi
- Fresh bedding with hygienic disposable pillow cases
- Room temperature controls
- Refreshing hot towel service
- Dimming lights
- Lencore sound masking system
- Wake up services and alarm clock
Check out MinuteSuites.com for more information and locations.
 See for examples:
(a) Brooks, A., & Lack, L. (2006). A brief afternoon nap following nocturnal sleep restriction: Which nap duration is most recuperative? Sleep, 29 831-840.
(b) Hayashi, M., & Hori, T. (1997). The effects of a 20-minute nap in the early afternoon. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 51, 558.
(c) Takahashi, M., & Arito, H. (2000). Maintenance of alertness and performance by a brief nap after lunch under prior sleep deficit. Sleep, 23, 813-819.
(d) Tamaki, M., Shirota, A., Hayashi, M., Hori, T. (2000). Restorative effects of a short afternoon nap (<30 min) in the elderly on subjective mood, performance and EEG activity. Sleep Research Online, 3, 131-139.
(e) Tietzel, A., & Lack, L. (2003). The objective alerting effects of brief naps following eight hours of nocturnal sleep. Sleep, 26, 431.
(f) Tucker, M., & Fishbein, W. (2008). Enhancement of declarative memory performance following a daytime nap is contingent on strength of initial task acquisition. Sleep, 31, 197-203.
 See for example: Stampi, C., Mullington, J., Rivers, M.,Campos, J., & Broughton, R. (1990). Ultrashort sleep schedules: Sleep architecture and the recuperative value of multiple 80- 50- and 20 –min naps. In J. Horne (Ed.) Sleep, Bochum, U.K.: Pontenagel Press.