Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.
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We've shared all about the science of getting enough sleep, but now let's shift our focus to the power of a good nap. I’ll be honest: I’ve never liked naps much. For somebody who loves getting things done, naps sound so... unproductive. I ditched them as a toddler, and it’s only recently that I’ve revisited the issue because of how compelling the science behind naps is!
Turns out, people who take naps are more creative, in better moods, and--gasp!--more productive. So, I’ve been working on my napping skills. There are worse things to have to work at, right?
Here are all my best tips for taking an amazing nap:
1. Keep the Room Cool
I--and, turns out, everyone else--sleep better when the surrounding room is cool. You don’t want to be cold but definitely turn a fan on or make sure the A/C is going (especially if you’re in Austin)!
2. Try Aromatherapy
Science has proven the power of lavender to help people sleep better, rest more deeply, and lessen the impact of pain. Now, I find that just the smell of lavender triggers my brain towards a happier, sleepier mood!
My favorite way to use aromatherapy is to diffuse lavender essential oil or spritz a lavender mist onto my pillow and covers before I crawl in.
3. Make It Dark
I don’t have blackout curtains (but you could totally draw those before sleeping if you have some!), but I do use a sleep mask to block the light. I also find that the pressure of a therapeutic mask also helps my brain stop thinking about ALL THE THINGS and calm down.
4. There’s an App for That
My husband can fall asleep anywhere, anytime--he just has to close his eyes. If you think I’m super jealous...you’re right.
Me? I need an app with either white noise or a sleep meditation to help my brain stop focusing on my to-do list, what my boss said to me in last week’s review, and what I need at Target. You can try Headspace or Soultime-- both are great options!
5. Set a Timer
I set a timer before my nap for two reasons. First, naps longer than ten or twenty minutes aren’t actually that helpful. If you nap for longer than that, the chances of waking up groggy and having a hard time going to sleep at night are much higher.
Second, a timer lets my brain off the hook--I can feel myself relaxing more because I know that for this twenty minute period, my job is to rest.
6. Drink Espresso or Coffee Right Before Your Nap
Caffeine doesn’t actually start to kick until about ten minutes after you drink it--and its impact tends to peak about 45 minutes after you consume it. Downing a quick espresso or cup of joe before your nap means you’ll be getting that natural coffee high right about the same time you’re waking up. Genius!
Sometimes I try all of the above, and I still can’t actually fall asleep--naps are tough for some of us! But even if I’ve just laid down peacefully for twenty minutes, I’m always amazed at how much better I feel, and how much more alert and productive I am the rest of the day. Try it!