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How to Start Napping…and Why You Should

How to Start Napping…and Why You Should
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    Before you read the title and get angry, touting the same ol’ “I’m too busy!” argument, hear me out:

    You can save time, energy, and get way more done by taking naps.

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    I know you’re in denial, but it’s true. I’ve used these techniques myself in the midst of a full-time marketing job, a part-time church job, trying to write a book, run two websites, and get married–and sometimes napping was the only way I would have been able to stay as productive as I was.

    But take it from actual research: Jurgen Aschoff was a German physician, biologist, and behavioral physiologist, and he ran a remarkable experiment in the first half of last century. Aschoff placed men and women, individually, into converted World-War II bunkers that blocked out all daylight. The subjects were placed in these isolation rooms for days at a time, without access to any time-keeping devices.

    After a 48-hour adjustment period, Aschoff found that all of the subjects had one strange, miraculous thing in common: they each became biphasic, meaning they slept for about six or seven hours at a time, then had a period of wakefulness, then went back to sleep for another “nap,” this time shorter than the first.

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    They were falling back into the natural state of biphasic sleep cycles, adhered to by much of the animal kingdom.

    For those of us with “real lives,” however, we don’t have the luxury of experimentation. Rest assured, though, I’ve done the work for you! Here’s a brief outline of the best things I’ve found about adopting a napping schedule:

    Give it a shot. Before you do, though, know that napping takes practice — it won’t just come to you immediately, but once you figure it out, you’ll be able to almost “nap on command,” allowing yourself the luxury of grabbing a quick (5 to 10 minutes) snooze while at work, at home, or in traffic (just kidding!).

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    So, how do you do it? How do you get to a state of zen in your daily life by using the power of the nap?

    First, you’ll need to figure out when to nap. Dr. Sara Mednick, who wrote the great book Take a Nap: Change Your Life, has this to say about the different sleep cycles we partake in during our sleep hours:

    1. Stage 1 – This stage is least understood, and we spend the least amount of time in it. Stage 1 sleep is the first few minutes of “pseudo sleep,” where our minds aren’t really awake and our eyelids are pressuring us to give in.
    2. Stage 2 – Stage 2 is the foundation of sleep—it’s the stage we spend more than half of our sleep time in, and it’s the stage that helps to “reset” our brain to be more alert when we wake up.
    3. Stage 3 & 4 – We can lump these stages together because they represent what’s known as “slow-wave sleep,” which is the process during which our body and brain “rebuilds” and rejuvenates.
    4. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) – Perhaps the most popular and well-known sleep phase, REM sleep is the time of sleep that most resembles our waking state. As such, we are most likely to dream those wildly fantastical dreams during REM sleep, and it’s the stage that helps us improve our creativity as well.

    The different stages of sleep are also available at different times throughout the day and night — and in differing amounts:

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    • REM sleep is mostly available to us very early in the day, starting at 4 am and reaching its peak around 8-10 am.
    • Slow-Wave sleep depends on when we go to bed and wake up, but generally it can be reached mostly right after we go to bed, and then again a few hours before bed.
    • Stage 2 sleep we can enter at any time—it’s most accessible, so it’s there for taking, whenever we fall asleep.

    How to use naps to your benefit

    You simply need to then piece together your preferred nap: Do you need more energy? Try a late-morning nap or early-evening. Do you want to be more focused for that big project you’ve been working on? Fit in a nap built mostly on Stage 2 sleep, pretty much anytime you want (since you’re automatically in Stage 2 sleep most of the time, anyway). And finally, do you want to boost your creativity? Then try to grab a quick nap shortly after breakfast, when you’re most likely to be able to benefit from REM sleep.

    That’s it! Give it a shot, and leave a comment below with your thoughts. Once you try it you’ll realize that it’s not hard to do and you don’t need pills to do it. But it does, of course, take practice.

    (Photo credit: Businessman Relaxing via Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    Nick Thacker

    Nick is a novelist and founder of Sonata & Scribe. He shares productivity hacks on Lifehack.

    7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity How to Maintain a Blog AND a Full-Time Job Why I Write Using a Minimal Text Editor Why You Should Be a Writer The Amazing Secret Behind All Habits

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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