Whether you’re collegiate or collapsing from exhaustion due to jet lag, naps are an easy way to score an extra hour or two of shut-eye during an otherwise productive day. But what about those of us for whom naps are difficult to pull off? I have a friend who travels constantly and yet sleeping on planes and napping eludes her unless she’s absolutely running on tiny amounts of sleep. “If I’m napping, assume I have malaria,” she jokes. I have similar trouble with the whole napping enterprise. For me, conditions need to be perfect for me to shut off mid-day and ignore my circadian rhythms. So I talked to Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and co-founder of sleep tech company, Reverie, for his tips on how to catch some zzz’s during the day. Here, his best tips for how long to nap, how not to mess up your sleep cycle, and more.
Time Your Snooze
To nap strategically, that is, without messing up your sleep cycle, Rawls-Meehan suggests napping early and controlling the timing to less than 30 minutes or a full sleep cycle, which is 90 minutes. “If you end up sleeping somewhere in between 30 and 90 minutes you are likely to feel groggy,” he says. So keep your naps to either 20-30 minutes or 1.5 hours. “A shorter nap is a great way to boost alertness, while a longer nap should be reserved for recovery after a really bad night of sleep, a big night out, an extreme workout or sickness,” Rawls-Meehan says.
Set It Up Like Sleep
It’s all about mimicking your real sleep environment. The best naps will occur in a similar environment as sleep—dark, quiet and cool, Rawls-Meehan notes. “If you’ve ever napped in contacts, you probably know that it’s best to take them out before napping to avoid major red eyes,” he says. Napping in makeup might clog pores, stain the pillow and smudge your makeup, he adds.
Ease Jet Lag
There’s nothing worse than feeling exhausted and still being unable to sleep, especially when your body rhythms are disrupted due to jetlag or a nasty flu. For jet lag, Rawls-Meehan’s recommendation is to nap early in the day if you must nap (before 2 p.m.) and limit the duration to a full sleep cycle (90 minutes).
Get Out And Get Moving
Sometimes the best way to overcome sleepiness is to do the opposite of what you think would work (i.e., nap), Rawls-Meehan says. “Get up and go outside, exercise or take a walk,” he suggests. “Particularly for jet lag, exercise and sun exposure is the most powerful way to reset your body clock and realign with the time zone you’re in or your usual routine.” Getting out of the bedroom during the day signals to your body that it’s not nighttime. For the first day or two of jet lag, you may also want to consider taking a small dose of melatonin an hour or two before you go to bed, he says.
Block The Light
An eye mask is a great nap or sleep accessory. Eye masks block out artificial or natural daylight, which encourage better sleep. “I have a large stash of eye masks that I collect during my international travels,” he says. “My wife prefers to carry a silk eye mask that keeps the area around her eyes more comfortable.” You could also try some aromatherapy-infused ones with lavender, which helps induce sleep.
And The Noise
Free apps like the White Noise app, or even a Spotify playlist of soothing spa songs may help you drift off to dreamland. “There are a lot of free apps to choose from, offering white noise variations that range from raindrops to windmills to chugging trains,” Rawls-Meehan says. He says to browse until you find something that naturally appeals to your senses. “A simple bedroom fan is also a great source of white noise,” he adds.