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This is the recipe for a perfect nap, according to a sleep expert

Posted by
Lauren Geall
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Woman napping in bed

New research has revealed the nation’s napping habits – and it seems many of us might be doing it wrong. 

You may not think it, but there is an art to napping.

We know taking a nap can provide us with a whole host of benefits: according to the Mayo Clinic, napping can not only help us to relax and reduce fatigue, but also increase our alertness, help boost our mood and improve our performance, giving us quicker reaction times and a better memory. 

But despite this, for a long time, the mystery of the perfect nap has eluded us. Why is it that sometimes, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the world, whereas other times, a nap will sentence you to a day spent feeling groggy and low on energy? What’s the secret to making the most of a nap time, especially when you’re finally able to grab one?

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Now, thanks to a new study from ScS, we’ve finally got the answers about where we’ve been going wrong – and how best to master the art of the perfect nap.

The survey, which took into account the napping habits of 2,003 people, revealed that in the UK we nap on average three times a week, with the average length 35 minutes. However, that’s not necessarily reaping us all the benefits we could be getting from a slightly shorter sleep.

“A power nap of 20 to 30 minutes is sufficient to turn off the nervous system, recharge the whole body and improve alertness,” said Lisa Artis, Sleep Adviser at the Sleep Council. “Any longer, though, is long enough to put you in a deep sleep and leave you feeling groggy when you wake.”

So that’s sorted – a short cat nap can set us in the best stead to tackle the rest of our day, but any longer and we’ll be feeling the consequences. 

Girl waking up from nap
Nap time: the perfect nap length is 20-30 minutes.

But are there any other ways to improve the quality of our nap and help us feel the most recharged? According to Artis, there are five top tips to follow in order to ensure we’re making the most of our down time.

While aiming to only sleep 20-30 minutes remains the most important step, you can also use an eye mask and earplugs to block out any light and noise which stops us falling asleep, and ensure you’re in a comfortable and restful place (somewhere that’s quiet, cool and dark). 

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“The post lunch lull, between 1-3pm, is the best time to nap,” Artis adds. “It’s when our sleep urge has a peak and our sleep needs start to increase. Napping too late in the day, even as early as 4pm can impact night time sleep.”

And if you find it hard to nap in the first place? No need to worry, says Artis: “If you’re feeling tired, but can’t get to sleep, use the time to relax instead, which can be just as restful.”

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Lauren Geall

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