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Health and Wellbeing

The Benefits of Taking a Nap

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

10th February, 2023

woman leaning back to take a nap on the sofa

In today’s busy world, napping can be very beneficial and can even improve the quality of your sleep. A nap can help to remove some of the over-stimulation and agitation of the day before you get into bed at night, thus making for a better night’s sleep.

Napping offers various benefits including reduced fatigue, increased focus and alertness, improved mood and performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory.

Ironically, I have found in my work that napping can also be helpful for those who haven’t been sleeping well for a long time and dread going to bed. It makes sense that taking a nap can help them to counter the effects of their sleeplessness. Whatsmore, an unusual benefit also arises because being able to nap during the day can attune the body to being receptive to letting go of tension and ‘allowing’ rest. Over time this is a skill that can be applied to going to bed at night and similarly letting go, allowing rest and then, being able to sleep.

However, napping must be done in the right way and at the right time. Overnapping or napping for too long and too late in the day can cause problems. If you nap for too long, you can feel more tired afterwards. This is called sleep inertia. Napping too late in the day can also impact night-time sleep making it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep.

So, what exactly is a nap and is there a right way to nap? There are different types of naps and the one that most of us can benefit from is the power nap. Strictly speaking, power napping is not sleeping so it can even be done by people who say they can never sleep during the day. Power napping is taking yourself to a state of deep relaxation and allowing the mind and body to relax, let go and restore.

You may ask, how do you nap properly? Ideally, you shouldn’t nap in bed where there is a real risk of you oversleeping but this is the ideal time to use the Oak Tree Rise and Recline chair to set up your perfect, comfortable afternoon nap.

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The 5 steps to taking the perfect power nap

Step 1

The first question you may have is ‘when should I power nap?’ The best time to power nap is in the afternoon, at some point between 2 and 4pm, when you start to feel sleepy or your ability to concentrate on your task is reduced. This is the best time to take a power nap and any later than this can affect your ability to sleep well at night.

The first step is to get comfortable but not too comfortable. So, avoid closing the curtains, getting into bed and pulling the duvet up to your neck. Instead, consider napping in a comfortable chair. For example, the Oak Tree Mobility Rise and Recline chair can help you to find your optimal napping posture, close your eyes and simply allow yourself to rest and recharge. Don’t forget to switch off your phone or put it on silent mode so that you don’t have to worry about being disturbed.

woman napping on a sofa with dimmed lights

You might want to think about sound and lighting levels. If you have had a particularly busy day and your mind is racing, it could be helpful to have some sort of noise in the background that you can focus on. White noise can be particularly effective for this. If you choose music, choose something relaxing and avoid anything with too much of a beat. You should avoid listening to the TV or news during your naps. You can experiment by dimming the light but avoid complete darkness.

Step 2

Set an alarm for 10-20 mins or ask someone to let you know when this time has passed.

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Step 3

Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. You will be aware of external sounds, internal sensations and thoughts but keep focusing on your breathing and don’t try to block anything out.

Step 4

While focusing on your breathing, mentally whisper the word IIIIIIN as you breathe in and OOOOOOOUT as you breathe out. Feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into relaxation with every breath you take. Focus on how your nostrils feel as the air moves in and out, or how the air feels when it hits the back of your throat. Try to maintain breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.

Step 5

When the alarm goes, rouse yourself gently from your nap. Open your eyes slowly and start to move your fingers and toes. After a minute or two you should be fully conscious, more relaxed and at the same time mentally and physically energised. If you can, take a short walk – 2 or 3 minutes will do - or move around and do some gentle stretches.

Napping variations

You can optimise the results of your power nap by using your own relaxing words or mantra while you nap. For example, some people use the word ‘calm’ or ‘peace’. Some people also use visualisation during their naps – a trick many top athletes use to enhance their performance. Caffeine naps can also be helpful if you are tired but need to pick up your energy for afternoon tasks or a late night. The way to do this is to have a cup of tea or coffee before you start your nap. Having some caffeine in this way helps you to come out of your nap feeling more energised.

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Finally, although there are so many benefits to napping, there can be some drawbacks. These include potentially hindering night-time sleep, as mentioned previously. Studies have also shown that napping for more than 90 minutes can be associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The key is to avoid over-napping and to use your Oak Tree Mobility rise and recline chair to take your perfect afternoon nap.

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