By Brian Acton
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is important. Your circadian rhythm (also known as your internal clock) regulates your daily cycle and is aided by consistent sleep patterns. If your sleeping habits are too random, you may have trouble falling asleep or getting quality sleep.
For many people, feeling sleepy in the afternoon is a common occurrence. One natural response (when you can find the time) is to take a nap and wake up feeling refreshed. But you may be worried that napping will throw off your sleep cycle or make it hard to fall asleep that evening.
Luckily, there are ways to take naps without disturbing your sleep cycle. Here are four tips:
- Nap for the Right Amount of Time
The Sleep Foundation recommends shorter naps around twenty to thirty minutes in length. Shorter naps convey benefits such as a quick energy boost, but shouldn’t leave you feeling too drowsy or disoriented.
But if you have the time, a 90-minute nap might be best. Ninety minutes is enough time to make it through a complete sleep cycle and wake up refreshed. You can probably take a 90-minute nap without disturbing your internal clock, but try not to go longer - you could wake up in the middle of the next sleep cycle, feel groggy, and have difficulty sleeping at bedtime.
- Nap at the Right Time
If you try to nap too early in the day, you may have trouble falling asleep. If you try to nap too late in the day, you run the risk of throwing off your sleep schedule.
Try to avoid napping within six hours of bedtime. For most people, between 2PM and 3PM is the best time to go down for a nap - by that time, lunch has been eaten and energy levels have started to dip. If you have an unconventional schedule, a good rule of thumb is to nap around seven hours after you wake up.
- Nap in a Comfortable Environment
If you’re napping in the wrong environment - such as one that is too hot, too cold, or too noisy - you may spend too much time trying to fall asleep, which can artificially extend your napping time. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by napping in as comfortable and relaxing an environment as possible.
- Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
If you avoid coffee in the morning, you’ll be more likely to get a quality nap in the afternoon. On the flipside, if you drink coffee to wake up after your nap, you could be setting yourself up for a restless night. Try to avoid drinking coffee more than six hours before bedtime.