The Art of Napping

Until recently, naps were largely ignored by researchers, who routinely instructed the volunteers they observed in sleep laboratories to avoid taking naps during the day. The strongest evidence that the body has an inherent need to nap was not published until 1986.

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Naps are not only beneficial because they make us feel less sleepy and more alert, but because they improve our cognitive functioning, reaction times, short-term memory and even our mood. Research also found that found that motor learning, which is where brain pathways change in response to learning a new skill, was significantly greater following a brief afternoon nap for regular nappers when compared to non-nappers.

One of the earliest studies looking at napping, carried out in the 1990s by NASA, found that commercial pilots who took naps during flights (while accompanied by a co-pilot) committed significantly fewer errors and had faster reaction times afterward. So napping is good and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

If you have lupus you know all about napping, infact we’re professionals. So could we improve the quality of our napping? Here’s a few tips to get the best from your nap.

  • Lie down: you'll take 50% longer to fall asleep in a sitting position.

  • Timing is everything. Some doctors advise that early risers who are up at 5 a.m. should nap at 1 p.m., while those who get up at 9 a.m. shouldn't nap until 3 p.m, however, napping after 3 p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep. Studies have tested a wide range of nap times, but for most individuals, it seems between 10 and 20 minutes of sleep is best. Longer naps can cause sleep inertia, or a period of grogginess and reduced performance caused by waking in the middle of deep sleep. If you wake up and don’t know what time or even what day it is, maybe your nap is too long.

  • Choose afternoons. It wasn't until the late 1980’s that researchers began to research napping, one of their first observations about daytime sleep was that the dreaded mid-afternoon slump is part of human nature. They found that, left to our own devices, humans tend to sleep once for a long period at night and once for a shorter period in the afternoon.

  • Get a wake-up call. Setting an alarm is really helpful for napping. It can be hard to fall asleep if you are worried about whether you will wake up at the right time. Setting an alarm takes the pressure off.

  • Where should you nap? For the perfect nap, you want to find a dark, quiet place to lie down, cool temperatures are helpful too.. If necessary, use an eye mask, ear plugs or white noise to help tune out disruptions. Try calming yourself for sleep with meditation techniques like breathing and visualisations.

  • Have a ‘nappuccino’.. A Japaneses study recommended having quick cup of something caffeinated followed by a nap. It sounds weird, but a few different studies have shown that people who take coffee naps are more alert and perform better on memory tests than people who drink coffee or take a nap alone.

    Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, drinking a cup before a 10 to 20 minute nap means the caffeine will start at the end of your nap or in the controlled recovery period (CRP), leaving you feeling refreshed and alert. Don’t sip your coffee too slowly, as you might find it’s already taking effect as you begin your CRP. Also be aware of the amount of caffeine you have already consumed. If you are hovering around the 400mg daily maximum, go without. This may not work for everyone, for some the mere suggestion of caffeine, in the form of coffee taste or smell, wakes us up.

  • Don't lose sleep at night. If you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. Long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep.

  • After napping. Give yourself time to wake up before resuming activities, particularly those that require a quick or sharp response.

Famous Nappers

Winston Churchill

Churchill believed a nap helped him get twice as much done each day. In his book The Gathering Storm, he put to rest the notion that you get more work done if you don’t sleep.

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Salvador Dali

Eccentric Catalan artist Salvador Dali believed that one of the pivotal points to his becoming a great painter was what he called “slumber with a key.” This term refers to an afternoon nap designed to last no longer than one second. In his 1948 book Salvador Dali: 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, he took us through the five steps of how to take the ultimate nap.

Albert Einstein

Einstein claimed that he needed 10 hours of sleep at night as well as his daytime naps to fuel that amazing brain of his. Just like Dali, he practiced micro-napping, which meant that he never allowed himself to drift into stage two of sleep. To ensure this he would sit in his favourite armchair holding a pencil or spoon and begin to doze off. If the object dropped, it would make a loud clang, which would wake him up.

John F. Kennedy

JFK enjoyed his one to two hour afternoon siesta with his wife Jackie. JFK’s workdays were 12 hours long (or more) and he relied heavily on naps to keep him alert. He learnt the technique from his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, who took his cue from Churchill.

A number of other Presidents were also avid nappers, including Ronal Reagan and Bill Clinton. Nancy Reagan denied all rumours of Ronald’s daytime snoozes afraid her husband would be perceived as lazy

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Leonardo Da Vinci

Whilst painting his world-famous masterpiece the Mona Lisa, he was living off of only two hours sleep a day. Da Vinci replaced real sleep with a 15-minute naps every four hours. He critiqued those who slept a lot, saying that we have plenty of time to sleep when we die.

Muhammad Ali

Whilst training for his famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight against George Foreman, Ali woke up at 4am for a run, had breakfast watched a movie and only went about his training until he’d had an afternoon nap.

Happy Napping!!

Angie Davidson

The content on this blog should not be seen as a substitute for medical advice. If you have, or think you may have lupus, always seek advice from a qualified physician. Find out more in our Terms of Use.