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How to Start Napping…and Why You Should

How to Start Napping…and Why You Should


    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)

    More by this author

    Nick Thacker

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

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    Last Updated on May 7, 2021

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

    Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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    Relocate your alarm clock.

    Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

    Scrap the snooze.

    The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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    Change up your buzzer

    If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

    Make a puzzle

    If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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    Get into a routine

    Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

    Have a reason

    Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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    As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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