There is a lot of stigma about napping — the art of bowing out of life for a little while so that you can lay down your head & have a sweet little snooze. People feel guilty about it. “There’s too much to do!”, they bellow. “Who has time to nap?!”

Well, my guilt-ridden bunnies, studies have shown that napping is really good for you. It benefits hormonal maintenance & cell repair, as well as reducing stress & the risk of heart disease. It will make you into a happier, more productive member of society.

“Mednick’s most recent research also shows that power naps can lift productivity and mood, lower stress, and improve memory and learning. In fact, Mednick has found through MRIs of nappers that brain activity stays high throughout the day with a nap; without one, it declines as the day wears on. Tell that to the boss next time he finds you passed out at your desk.” (Link)

Famous nappers include Winston Churchill, Napoleon, J.F.K., Einstein, Thomas Edison & Bill Gates (who used to nap under his desk).

Here are my tips for a really good nap.

Find somewhere quiet where you can lie down. I really like to nap in bed with a big fluffy duvet, or sometimes on the spare bed in the living room, with the sun shining on me. Tell people you’re going to have a nap & that you would appreciate it if they could keep the noise down. (Bribing works wonders.)

Wear something comfortable. I like to sleep in vintage slips, since they allow me to wriggle about (I am an insane bed-wriggler) & not constrain me. I also go crazy if I fall asleep with socks on, & always find them on the floor — or tucked in at the end of the bed — in the morning.

Use an eye-mask. I had to buy an eye-mask when I moved into my apartment in Auckland a couple of years ago. There was no blind over the window & as soon as the sun rose, my little house was so bright I just couldn’t sleep anymore. Buying a good eye-mask saved my sanity, & even when I got a blind shortly afterwards, I still slept with the mask on. I have never had such deep, uninterrupted sleep as when I use that thing.

Try to nap in the morning or just after lunch. (I find that carbohydrates make me really sleepy, so often if I have a sandwich or bagel or pasta for lunch I am out like a light.) Sleeping in the late afternoon makes it more likely for you to fall into a deep sleep, which will leave you feeling a bit groggy, which is the WORST!

Avoid caffeine & sugar before sleeping. Instead eat foods which are high in protein & calcium, as this encourages restful sleep.

Lie down. One by one, tense every muscle, then release it. Do this from the top of your skull down to the tips of your toes. Take some deep breaths. If your mind is flooded with thoughts, worries or fears, just concentrate on your breathing. In… out… in… out. Try to make your in & out breaths the same length. Trying to do this is so boring it will send you off in seconds! But it works!

The ideal length of your nap will depend on what you’re trying to achieve.

THE MICRO-NAP: two to five minutes
Shown to be surprisingly effective at shedding sleepiness.

THE MINI-NAP: five to 20 minutes
Increases alertness, stamina, motor learning, and motor performance.

Includes the benefits of the micro and the mini, but additionally improves muscle memory and clears the brain of useless built-up information, which helps with long-term memory (remembering facts, events, and names).

THE LAZY MAN’S NAP: 50 to 90 minutes
Includes slow-wave plus REM sleep; good for improving perceptual processing; also when the system is flooded with human growth hormone, great for repairing bones and muscles.

As SARK says, “You now have permission to nap”. Her book, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed: The Ultimate Nap Book is fantastic & all about the joy of napping. (I love SARK. You should read this.)

P.S. Apparently, the way you fall asleep gives an insight into your personality! I’m a “Freefaller” or a “Starfish”. How about you?

P.P.S. Yes, this piece was prompted by the fact that I slept from 3am to 5pm today!