The Surprising Benefits of Taking Naps

relax and energize with a nap“Nice idea,” you say, “but who has time to take a nap?”  You have kids to feed, a meeting to prepare for, and you promised your sister you’d call her back tonight. Forget it!

There was a time when I wouldn’t have considered it either.  Felt like I was giving a valuable piece of my life away – for what?   But now the benefits of taking naps – especially as I’ve gotten older – are so obvious that I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

You will emerge a new creature from your peaceful sanctuary, ready to take on the world again.

Sure, a little planning is involved, especially in the beginning.  You need a quiet place where you can unwind, and an understanding with your family that this time alone is vital to your well-being, and will ultimately improve their lives as well.  

How so?  Because you will emerge a new creature from your peaceful sanctuary, ready to take on the world again: calm, enthusiastic, and focused on every challenge and pleasure ahead.

Napping became crucial for me in my mid 40’s – when my days at work left me exhausted and edgy.    Once home, I wanted to be alone, preferably in my dark bedroom with my feet up and a soft blanket over me.  Quickly, this became special “me” time, something that many people – especially busy women – rarely give themselves.

Slowly, my jangled nerves began to relax.  The darkness and silence a balm to my overworked senses.   “Doing nothing” as I affectionately began to call it, became a highlight of my day.  Partly because of the novelty:  I had always been someone who jumped from task to task, always involved in projects and plans.

In the past “doing nothing” would have seemed like a complete waste to me, a luxury for the lazy.  But I soon realized it was just the opposite.  It was a time for my body to heal and my overloaded mind to sort itself out and relax.

As I drifted on the edge of sleep, sometimes images would appear to me – evocative faces and scenes.  Or perhaps a few words would echo in my mind.  Something I’d been thinking about earlier. Everything started flowing together, as I drifted into this unconscious world of emotional release where I could forget my name and identity for a few sweet minutes, relishing the simple peace of body and mind.

I started napping to overcome exhaustion and improve my health. I continue the practice to prevent feeling overwhelmed by life.  But most importantly, I relish it as a vital part of my day, when I reconnect with myself and to the hidden places of my mind and spirit that release me from care and open me to joy.

When I return to the world, I can see its beauty more clearly, and my loved ones with a more appreciative eye.

energetic woman after good nap

A few tips to get started napping:

  • Don’t worry if you don’t actually sleep.   Just enjoy this relaxed time with your eyes closed and minimal stimulation.  It will do wonders for body and soul.
  • Notice during the day when your energy seems to hit its lowest point.  For many people, this will be mid-morning or mid-afternoon, a natural time for hormones and energy to take a dip. This a good time for a short nap, and – surprisingly – if you can’t nap, experts say that a quick walk around the block will bolster your energy in much the same way.
  • Try to limit your nap to half an hour – even 10 to 15 minutes can be beneficial if your time is constrained.   More than 30 minutes can move you into a deeper phase of the 90-minute sleep cycle and leave you groggy when you try to awaken.
  • Sleep in a chair if you enjoy it as I do.   It can be more convenient, and make it easier to arise when your nap is over.
  • Use a fan if you like white noise to reduce outside sounds, and set an alarm if you’re afraid of sleeping too long.   My alarm starts a favorite song when my time is up.   A nice welcome to the rest of my day!
  • Relax and enjoy!    And share your stories with me.    I’d love to hear how you make napping a part of your life or the challenges you may still face.

9 thoughts on “The Surprising Benefits of Taking Naps

  1. Reading this article just makes me want to take a nap already. It’s always a constant struggle between my mind and body when it comes to resting. The mind is always saying that there are a ton of things to do while the body just wants to take a break.

    I’ve never really taken a nap while sitting down on a chair. I think the position of the head will make it uncomfortable for the neck later on, but there’s no harm trying, especially when you can’t get access to beds in the office.

  2. Great article. So important to slow down gently. Like your suggestion of the family all knowing that this is private time and the idea of having a fan going to eliminate outside sounds.
    Also that one doesn’t actually have to sleep but just rest. I really like your idea and am going to try and include it in my daily routine from now on.
    Thank you for the post.

    1. Hi Roy, glad you liked the post and hope you enjoy adding naps to your routine.  For me, they are a real life saver when I hit a stressful period and a great sustaining measure to maintain balance and focus over the long haul. Have a great day!

  3. Naps are so important. I try to take one every day after lunch at work. I have a yoga mat in my office and 30-minute nap just after eating does the digestion wonders and clears the mind!

    Fun fact: Some weeks ago there was a new research published about how essential naps are for women, since their brains handle a lot of multitasking which is exhausting!

    1. I’m glad you’re able to nap at work after lunch. I hope more workplaces make this possible for employees. I have some co-workers who sleep in their cars on their lunch hour, just to get a little shuteye.

      Yeah, napping certainly helps me recover from multi-tasking and overthinking. Nice we are seeing such research. Thanks!

  4. I’ve often thought about taking naps, as I can often become tired throughout the day (yep, even at 35 years old!) HA HA. But the thought of losing valuable time has always crossed my mind too.

    However, after reading what you’ve said: Good health is definitely vital because life is delicate and we can’t afford to lead an unhealthy life. Who knows how much time each and every one of us has left to live?!

    I really appreciate your tips for napping, especially the ideal lengths of time. I can also see where you’re coming from about the groggy part…. I’m like that every morning! LOL.

    Neil

    1. Yeah, the feeling that you’re wasting time can be tricky, but I find napping to be very time-efficient. Heck, this morning, I napped for about 10 minutes, maybe less, as I wasn’t keeping a sharp eye on the clock. But I swear I felt like a million bucks after just a few minutes of sleep. Even 5 minutes is all I need sometimes.

      And the funny thing is that while you’re asleep, your mind knows no passage of time, so the nap can feel internally that it is much longer. My personal theory is that just a very few minutes of sleep can have very powerful healing effects. So I will say let yourself snooze when you need to and the rest of your day should be much more productive. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  5. Napping is definitely something I wish I could do more of. What would you recommend to somebody like me who can’t really fall asleep on command? It takes me usually about 30 minutes just to fall asleep, and setting an alarm isn’t ideal since I’m really not sure when I will fall asleep.

    1. Well, I would say take any pressure off yourself to sleep by thinking of it more in terms of “resting” than napping. At times, I can’t fall asleep as quickly as I would like either, but I’ve come to realize that real downtime, when you turn off all stimulation and just breath and relax is beneficial in much the same way that sleep is. In fact, this sort of complete relaxation – where you just let yourself flow naturally – is very similar to meditation and has many of the same benefits, such as improving memory and mood.

      No, I wouldn’t use an alarm unless there’s someplace you really have to be. Just let yourself flow without expectations and you will reap the benefit of this kind of self care. Good luck!

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