4 Strategies for Getting a Healthy Midday Nap

What is the best way to reduce feelings of frustration and stress? Yoga, meditation, listening to quiet music?

While all of these can have a positive effect on stress levels, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan has found that the secret to feeling less day-to-day frustration might just be a quick nap.

Forty people enrolled into the nap study, which was designed to test people’s frustration levels while attempting an impossible task. The study participants were allowed three days of normal sleep before they were given an impossible task to complete.

After the test, the participants filled out a questionnaire rating their feelings of sleepiness, impulsivity and mood. After filling in the questions, half of the participants took an hour nap, while the other half watched a soothing nature video.

After the hour break, the participants tried the impossible task once more and re-answered the questions.

During the first task attempt, all participants spent about the same amount of time completing the task and reported similar levels of frustration. But during the second task, the nappers reported lower levels of frustration and worked at the task longer before giving up.

The study authors acknowledge that their study was small and that the results may be different in larger studies.

However, it does confirm previous studies indicating that an afternoon nap can have productivity-boosting effects.

How naps relieve stress

During sleep, your body not only rests and recharges, but your brain develops and expands. Research shows that most of a child’s brain development occurs during sleep. Your brain also processes problems and works through solutions while you sleep (hence the term “sleep on it”).

Temporarily stepping away from activity helps to manage stress and reduce sleep-related cognition problems.

According to research, naps enhance creativity, boost memory, and improve decision-making and problem-solving skills, in addition to relieving stress.

Use these tips to gain the maximum benefits from daytime napping:

Choose your nap length

Naps between 20 and 30 minutes boost motor-learning skills and improve alertness. Naps between 30 minutes and 60 minutes boost decision-making skills, reduce stress, increase creativity, and make memorizing easier.

Sleeping any longer than 60 minutes could make you feel groggy, so avoid napping for longer than an hour.

Make naps a habit

Daily naps are more beneficial than sporadic naps. Research shows that naps are most beneficial between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., so schedule your daily nap accordingly.

If you get an hour for lunch, try scheduling it for 1 p.m. and spend the first half-hour napping.

Improve nap quality

Naps are most beneficial in quiet, cool and dark places. Use an eye mask if you cannot find a completely dark room to nap in.

Take a blanket and pillow with you to make your nap more comfortable if you are napping at work.

Get enough sleep at night

Daily naps are less effective if you do not get enough sleep at night. The Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep.

Napping is not meant to help you catch up on sleep, but rather to reset your brain to reduce frustration levels and improve mental alacrity.