Napping techniques?
February 3, 2005 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Napmasters assemble! When I take a nap, more often than not I wake up feeling like absolute crap: my head hurts and I feel even more tired than I did before laying down. I try to avoid naps because of this, though I do enjoy the odd siesta. Does anyone have any techniques for executing a pleasant, refreshing nap?
posted by picea to Health & Fitness (29 answers total)
How long are your naps?

I find if I take a 20 minute nap I'm fine when I wake up and I feel refreshed. If I take a long nap, two hours or so, it's enough time to get into a real deep sleep. Waking out of a deep sleep is not a Good Thing.
posted by bondcliff at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2005

I have the same problem, but only with naps less than an hour. If I'm asleep for less than that, I wake up completely disoriented. Over an hour, and I'm refreshed.
posted by goatdog at 12:18 PM on February 3, 2005

If I take a 15-20 min. nap, I wake up feeling good. Longer than that and I feel worse than if I'd had no nap at all. (Unless I'm making up for a lot of lost sleep or am fighting a cold.) I also don't nap in a darkened room--I try to sleep with sunlight on my face.
posted by lobakgo at 12:23 PM on February 3, 2005

I think it's the "odd siesta" that might be your problem. When I used to nap regularly, I was consistent, and I'd sleep for no longer than half an hour. I was rarely groggy when I woke up, from naps or a night's sleep. Nowadays, my sleep schedule is fairly irregular, and naps don't serve me well.
posted by Specklet at 12:24 PM on February 3, 2005

Ahhh, napping...this article has some good info in it.
posted by Gooney at 12:27 PM on February 3, 2005

I fall into the short is better camp.

Less than an hour (30-40 minutes seems optimum) and I feel great. More than that and the results are more like an interrupted nights sleep than anything else.
posted by cedar at 12:27 PM on February 3, 2005

I have the same problem when I sleep too long. Normally I cannot sleep past 10:30am without getting a headache
posted by bkdelong at 12:29 PM on February 3, 2005

I just woke up from a nap to read this. Bondcliff's right; twenty minutes is great, more is a problem.

When I started college, a study guide they gave had this suggestion: tell yourself "I'm going to wake up at ___ time, feeling rested and refreshed." Corny, but it works for me.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:29 PM on February 3, 2005

One simple naphack is elevating the feet above the level of the heart. This usually makes my naps deeper and shorter. I must have read this tip in Omni magazine, ca. 1986.
posted by eatitlive at 12:38 PM on February 3, 2005

I seem to be in the minority (but with goatdog) in having the experience of long naps=good, short naps=bad. Which is not to invalidate any of the short nappers' experiences, but only to emphasize how widely this varies between different people. About 90 minutes is the minimum for me to sleep and wake up feeling refreshed; shorter leaves me feeling groggy. And if I don't set an alarm and let myself wake up naturally, my naps quite regularly last three hours, with surprisingly little variation in length.

If I try to take a very short nap, 15-20 minutes (which I don't any more, from experience), I can't even get to sleep with the "you'll just have to get up again in 20 minutes" hanging over my head.

So maybe the lesson is to experiment with short naps, long naps, intermediate-length naps, and find what works for you.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2005

For me, it's location, location, location. Napping on the futon is far better than napping in my bed. I think that being in bed makes my body expect six hours or more of sleep, but being on the couch "tricks" my body into expecting less sleep.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:02 PM on February 3, 2005

About 30-40 minutes is right for me (shorter than that and it doesn't feel worth it; longer and I'm groggy and useless). I've also found that I tend to get raelly disoriented if I try to nap (or at least wake up) after dark or if it's too warm in the room.
posted by scody at 1:02 PM on February 3, 2005

If I nap *across* the bed - legs hanging off - my body interprets that as nap time, not sleep time. YMMV.
posted by notsnot at 1:07 PM on February 3, 2005

In the case of naps, I agree that less is more.

Anything more that 30 minutes gets me starting a sleep cycle, and when that is broken, I wake up feeling very groggy.
posted by eas98 at 1:29 PM on February 3, 2005

Keep 'em short. Do 'em in the afternoon, after food.

Don't use 'em to backfill sleep you're missing at night. Use 'em to really briefly and quickly recharge your batts for the evening. It's also soothing and de-stressing to simply relax your entire self once through, even if sleep itself doesn't really occur.
posted by scarabic at 1:58 PM on February 3, 2005

Salvador Dali napped in his armchair, holding a spoon over a metal pan on the floor below. When Dali hit REM Sleep and lost muscle tonus, the spoon would fall from his grip, bang the metal pan and awaken him.
posted by trharlan at 1:58 PM on February 3, 2005

I think it's the "odd siesta" that might be your problem.

My experience bears this out. I routinely nap pretty much every evening, a 1/2 hour to 45-minute session. I wake up feeling really refreshed, and I've basically trained my brain to wake me up after no longer than 1 hour. Since I got married, my wife has since fallen into the same habit (though she is in the 15-20 minute camp). Let your body find out what feels best for it, and then try to develop a routine (my naps are always within the same 1/2-hour or so start time every night, for example).
posted by Skot at 2:09 PM on February 3, 2005

When I nap in bed, I feel like you describe when I awake. However, when I nap anywhere but in a bed, I usually feel great.
posted by mischief at 2:17 PM on February 3, 2005

I'm in the same minority as goatdog and DevilsAdvocate; like so many things in life, longer is better. Naps less than about 90 minutes leave me feeling more sleep deprived. If I can't take a nap that's long enough I won't nap at all.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:21 PM on February 3, 2005

Here's another vote for naps under an hour: I always set the alarm on my cell phone or the nap button on my alarm clock so I don't sleep too long.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:28 PM on February 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

I remember reading that Thomas Edison would nap holding a pie tin in his hand. When the tin dropped, his nap was over.
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:54 PM on February 3, 2005

I've never had a good nap experience, but have had a handful of incredible meditation sessions.

I've heard the Edison version as well, but as a method of entering a hypnagogic state. (wiki)
posted by Jack Karaoke at 3:40 PM on February 3, 2005

I've found that 20 minute naps work well for me as do hour naps. Anything else I feel worse rather than better (well unless its an 8.5 hour nap).
posted by forforf at 3:44 PM on February 3, 2005

Anyone who went to Cornell sometime during the past 30 years can tell you that the science backs up the "20-minute naps are best" crowd. See a book by one Dr. James Maas - sleep researcher, Cornell professor, Psych 101 instructor, nap enthusiast and advocate, and coiner of the phrase "power nap" - entitled Power Sleep.
posted by ChasFile at 3:59 PM on February 3, 2005

Thanks for the answers, peoples. I think I do better with the short naps. On reflection my most successful nappings were in airplanes or cars on shortish trips. The trick is, I guess, keeping the naps brief. Maybe I'll try the Dali trick. Thanks especially to Gooney for that article.
posted by picea at 7:01 PM on February 3, 2005

I always nap with my head at the foot of the bed, on top of the covers, with a light blanket and a different pillow than the one I use at night. For whatever reason this lets me fall asleep much faster. I also second the idea of sunlight. It is also best to wake up to some sound other than the alarm clock, since my alarm makes me think it is morning and I should hit the snooze and crawl back in.
posted by mai at 8:35 PM on February 3, 2005

I was just coming here to ask why my stomach goes sour after an afternoon nap. I rarely indulge, but if I'm feeling really sleepy and I have the time, I'll go to sleep in the afternoon. When I wake up again, after 1-3 hours, I have a really hard time getting up, my stomach feels queasy, and I have a raging headache and no appetite for the rest of the day. It's basically the same feeling I've had when I have to wake up super duper early (like 4:30 or 5 am) to catch a flight, so it must have something to do with interrupting deep sleep.

Drinking lots and lots of water seems to help some, for a while I thought all the feelings were just part of being dehydrated, but there's definitely something more at work.
posted by bonheur at 9:16 PM on February 3, 2005

In the United Kingdom, Rosekind notes, they favor high tea -- the tea itself high in caffeine -- in the late afternoon

Erm..which century did you visit?
posted by lunkfish at 3:20 AM on February 4, 2005

Short naps are good. If I take long naps it really throws my sleep schedule out of whack. On occasion I'll take a 15-20 minute nap during the workday. (on break of course) Like ThePinkSuperhero, I set the alarm on my cell phone so I don't sleep too long.

I also sleep on the train in the's one of the great pleasures of taking public transit into work. : ) I usually fall asleep as the train leaves the station (I take an express that starts at my station, makes two more stops, then goes right to Union Station) and wake up right before we pull into Union. Since Union is the end of the line, I don't need to worry about missing my stop, and I'm usually a bit more awake when I get to work than I would be otherwise. (I am so not a morning person.)
posted by SisterHavana at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2005

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