Naps provide some serious mental and physical benefits, but not if they last too long or occur too late in the day. Ideally, you want to awake from a nap feeling alert and refreshed enough to attack the rest of your tasks with renewed zeal, but not energized to the point where you can't get to sleep at night. Alas, most of us don't know these tricks and end up messing with our sleep cycle (guilty).
It turns out there are two easy tricks to make the most of your nap time. Both are counterintuitive, but they work.
Australian researchers confirmed that the best naps are very brief ones. According to their study, a ten-minute nap produced optimal results. Less than that had little effect on alertness, while longer than ten minutes tended to leave subjects feeling groggy and impaired their performance levels.
Getting into the habit of napping only for ten minutes is tough, but it really is more effective. After a few weeks of using this method, I realized I'd been handicapping myself by thinking more nap time was better for me. If I'm really exhausted, I'll sometimes do twenty minutes, but any more than that interferes with my ability to fall asleep later (without a little help, anyway).
Seriously, do it. Why? Because according to researchers Luise Reyner and James A. Horne, caffeine takes about 15 minutes to be effective. That means if you down a cup of java or some cold-brewed tea before you nap out, you'll wake up a few moments before it kicks in. That means almost no grogginess after you wake up.
After I read about this tip in Mind Hacks, I experimented by sipping coffee, black tea, green tea, and eating dark chocolate (which contains caffeine) before I napped. I tend to be caffeine-sensitive, so for me, green tea was most effective. Dark chocolate (the darker it is, the more caffeine it contains) was surprisingly effective, too, but it took longer to kick in, probably because it tends to have much less caffeine than coffee or tea.
Just be sure to enjoy your beverage or chocolate right before you nap. If you sip your coffee and get distracted by some texts or emails, chances are the caffeine will kick in and leave you too antsy to nap peacefully.
Want more sleeping tips? Learn how to hack your sleep habits, effectively power nap, avoid caffeine crashes, and maximize the effects of your daily caffeine intake. Plus, learn about the one easy task you're not doing to make great-tasting coffee at home.
How long is your perfect nap?