Limit the length of your snooze
Sleep experts have found that the length of your nap has a huge effect on how alert you feel afterwards. It all has to do with sleep cycles. A quick power nap should last between 10 and 26 minutes (it is this specific for a reason: NASA scientists found that a 26-minute nap improved pilot performance by 34% and alertness by 54%). An hour-long nap will trigger rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which helps improve memory, and a 90-minute snooze will get you through a full sleep cycle, which can boost creativity and emotional memory, the scientists said. Beware of sleeping for longer than 90 minutes though; you’ll get drawn into ‘sleep inertia’ and enter a new sleep cycle and won’t get any additional benefits. Plus, you could negatively affect your night time sleep.
Align the time of your nap with the time you woke up
For most people, the best time to nap is between 1pm and 3pm. But if you subscribe to an unusual sleep schedule (super early mornings or late nights), it’s best to align the time of your nap to the time you woke up. Psychologist and author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life, Sara Mednick, created a nap wheel just for this purpose. All you have to do is enter the time you woke up. The wheel will output your ideal naptime for that day (for example, if you woke up at 5am, nap at 1pm; for 6am, nap at 1.30pm; for 7am, try 2pm; for 8am, try 2.30pm).
Stick to a schedule
For new parents, getting a baby to adhere to a regular nap schedule is vital. The same thing goes for adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Taking an afternoon nap at the same time each day helps mesh the extra sleep into your circadian rhythm. Your body will begin to recognise when naptime is approaching, and you’ll find it easier to nod off faster.