How to Take a Nap the Right Way

Regular naps can give you a few more years of life, so you should consider dedicating enough time to this restful activity. Currently, Mexico is the country with the highest rates of obesity, which is why heart disease is a constant danger to the population and is listed as the leading cause of death in the country. However, the results of new research suggest that taking afternoon naps may prove beneficial for our hearts.

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Taking a nap

During the last Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology, data was presented linking midday naps to an average drop of 5 mmHg in blood pressure, the same effect that would be expected from other measures aimed at lowering blood pressure, such as reducing sodium intake and even taking an antihypertensive medication.

“The findings are very important because a drop in pressure of just 2 mmHg can reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack by up to 10%,” Manolis Kallistratos, a collaborator on the study, said in a news release. “According to the findings, if an individual allows themselves the luxury of taking a nap throughout the day, this could benefit their elevated blood pressure. Napping is a free habit that can be adopted very easily.”

Learning to nap.

Well… Many of us may find it easy to fall asleep throughout the day, but others of us are incapable. The vast majority of us have workdays where there is no room for naps, and such a proposal would frown on the friendliest boss, even if it is justified for health reasons.

On the other hand, there are people who fail miserably when it comes to taking a nap. Every time they try to throw a “coyotito” in the afternoon, even if their eyelids almost close from tiredness, it is practically impossible for them to fall asleep in a timely manner. And, if by sheer chance, they manage to fall into the arms of Morpheus, they inevitably wake up three hours later completely confused and bewildered, believing that the sun has risen.

Nap time

If you fit this description, don’t worry, there is hope. Joanna Clark, a pediatric sleep expert and founder of Blissful Baby Sleep Coaching, provided some recommendations for making the most of afternoon naps.

Short nap.

The first recommendation is made around the duration: between 20 minutes and 1 hour. Otherwise, you could fall into the third phase of sleep known as “slow-wave sleep,” and waking up during this phase could produce sleep inertia, a momentary state of confusion and drowsiness.

If you experience sleep inertia, regardless of the length of your naps, you could try drinking some coffee before bed. “One way to lessen the effects of sleep inertia is to consume caffeine just before a nap,” says clinical educator Terry Cralle. It can be confusing, but it just so happens that the effects of caffeine peak about 30 minutes after it’s consumed, allowing you to enjoy a quick nap and, when you wake up, have that coffee-fueled energy boost.

Better at noon.

Many tend to take a nap well into the afternoon. But, the optimal time is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to Clark. That’s because it’s not common for people to need a nap before 11 a.m., and naps after 2 p.m. could make it difficult to fall asleep at night. At a minimum, he suggests that you wake up three hours before you go to sleep to ensure optimal rest.

Man asleep in the afternoon

Emulate your normal sleep environment.

If when you’re at home your routine is to turn off the lights, perhaps read for a few minutes, take deep breaths or turn on the fan, then the ideal at nap time is to emulate that environment, according to Clark. This means that if you’re at home, it’s best to nap in bed instead of enjoying it on the couch.

Don’t be afraid of napping.

Clark suggests listening to binaur-beated meditation sequences to reach deeper states of relaxation and boost napping. These sound sequences are particularly useful for those who have trouble falling asleep.