i can't nap!
September 24, 2007 7:32 PM   Subscribe

I don't know how to nap.

I dream (har har) of being able to take a power nap. I know that a 15-20 minute nap is supposed to be quite refreshing, but any longer is a bad idea. But I have a problem. Unless I am doped up on NyQuil or haven't slept in several days, it takes me at least half an hour to fall asleep. As such, I have no idea how people manage to take a nap for only 15 minutes - mine last 2-4 hours and I always wake up feeling absolutely horrible.

Is there a trick to this, barring any kind of weird medication? Do people actually just rest their eyes when they "nap," or is everybody else capable of falling asleep quickly? I feel like I am missing out big time, and since I just started grad school, being able to take a nap seems like it would be really helpful.
posted by timory to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
One's ability to manage this depends on where they're able to nap, of course, but... in general. it is easy to fall asleep after an orgasm.
posted by tomboko at 7:50 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

A couple months of sleep deprivation (3-4 hours out of every 18) cured me of that. I don't have much of a problem with not being able to sleep now.
Seeing as how you are going into grad school, I understand that you will have plenty of practice.

seriously though, set an alarm. you can't trust yourself to wake up automatically without alot of training.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:50 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Start out by just "resting" without the goal of actually falling asleep, at a specific time each day... Set a timer (like a small kitchen-timer) for 20 minutes, and get up when it rings, whether you have slept or not. You'll eventually train your body to go into a restful state (and maybe even sleep) during that period.
posted by amyms at 7:54 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: tomboko: that's only true for men. there were some studies (too lazy to google right now) that say orgasm delays sleep for women. weird, right?
posted by timory at 7:57 PM on September 24, 2007

timory: I'm female, and orgasms put me to sleep with a menace.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: dammit, i guess my insomnia knows no bounds.
posted by timory at 8:11 PM on September 24, 2007

In 15 min you won't fall asleep, but my own technique is to:

a) limit the amount of ambient light. Wear a mask if necessary.
b) wear something loose and comfortable.
c) have a pillow
d) set an alarm
e) take slow deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. I find that if I count down after each exhale that I am usually yawning by 4 or 3.

And finally:
"You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do. Don't think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That's a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one - well, at least one and a half, I'm sure. When the war started, I had to sleep during the day because that was the only way I could cope with my responsibilities." - Winston Churchill
posted by furtive at 8:14 PM on September 24, 2007 [6 favorites]

I've used Pzizz for more than a year now and it beats just lying down and trying to nap. It costs a couple of bucks but if you know how to crack, do it.

If it changes your stressful days to more relaxed ones, buy it.
posted by theholotrope at 8:44 PM on September 24, 2007

I find that falling totally asleep leaves me dead for the rest of the day. Laying down for say, half an hour without really trying to sleep, just relaxing with my eyes closed, leaves me fairly refreshed though. I also find eating a meal right after waking up from a nap is one of the few things that can revive my brain.
posted by MadamM at 8:44 PM on September 24, 2007

Forgot, here's the website. Do 20-25 minutes a day.

posted by theholotrope at 8:45 PM on September 24, 2007

Take my advice.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:46 PM on September 24, 2007

Invest in a mask, and earplugs. Earplugs alone practically put me to sleep.

What position do you wind up in? Do you usually go to bed on your back, then flip over? Get in your deep sleep position straight away. Definitely take your clothes off, if that's per usual.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to help me fall asleep very simply: by telling me to relax my toes, me feet, my knees, my hips, and so on. Focusing on muscle relaxation long enough to attain stillness and repose is a great next step.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:22 PM on September 24, 2007

Reading beforehand helps immensely -- it gets the eyes all heavy. It also helps to, like, be tired.

Also: To fall asleep quickly, I focus on those weird spontaneous color splashes on the inside of my eyelids. Those things switch over into recognizable images, then into dreams, remarkably quickly.
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:39 PM on September 24, 2007

If you try all the advice here and still have problems (and still feel like you want or need to nap), it can't hurt to check with your doctor. There are a lot of people with undiagnosed sleep disorders in the world.
posted by wintersweet at 11:43 PM on September 24, 2007

I have trained myself to nap as necessary, by simply lying down and resting. I use this time to meditate, relax, and just free-associate. Usually, in a 30min break, I'll fall asleep after about 20min.

The caveat is that I only need to do this when I'm sleep-deprived (eg, have had around 4hrs highly-broken sleep or similar). I don't try this when i've had a relatively good nights' sleep.
posted by ysabet at 11:47 PM on September 24, 2007

is everybody else capable of falling asleep quickly

I realise this isn't very helpful, but: no, definitely not. I have a new baby, so I'm missing loads of sleep, but I still don't just nod off. 'Nap when the baby naps' is the most useless advice I received.

Very rarely, I manage a nice nap. It's usually when I'm a little blissed out for one reason or another. Great lunch + good early afternoon + good (but not too good) book + comfy sofa; something like that.
posted by kmennie at 2:28 AM on September 25, 2007

Sorry timory, I am female also. It works perfectly for me. I don't know what studies you're referring to...
posted by tomboko at 5:16 AM on September 25, 2007

I generally can't really nap for just twenty minutes, and pretty much all of the above-mentioned fail-safes do nothing for me. Earplugs make me anxious, eye-masks simply bother me, reading just gets me involved in the book, and the, ehm, tomboko's advice, helps me not at all.

I think the best thing to do is to make yourself super comfy somewhere, and just relax for twenty minutes or so. If it doesn't lead to sleep, don't worry about it. Stressing about naps is pretty counterproductive.

You could always try to sleep during lectures. Somehow I got conditioned to being able to sleep remarkably well in large lecture halls, with the professor droning on soporifically. I don't really recommend this if you're trying to learn, however.
posted by that girl at 5:36 AM on September 25, 2007

Response by poster: sadly, all of my google searches just turn up the book "why do men fall asleep after sex?"

this is the closest i can find, but it's not the study i read, which said something about how it takes 1-5 minutes for men to fall asleep after orgasm, while it takes women an average of 20.

the point is, although i definitely get super dozy afterwards, it doesn't actually put me to sleep!
posted by timory at 5:49 AM on September 25, 2007

Best answer: Different people nap differently, I think. Stop setting these conditions on success - if you think you'd be helped by a nap every day then simply set aside the time and do it.

"It" might not mean a nap like you're thinking of one - maybe all you'll do is close your eyes, lay back, and try to empty your mind for twenty minutes. Recognize that even if that's all you accomplish, it's a worthy goal.

You wake up horrible from those 2-4h sleeps because you're entering REM sleep, something a traditional nap doesn't involve.
posted by phearlez at 6:44 AM on September 25, 2007

This will sound like a stupid question (and it may very well be), but do you close your eyes when you are trying to take a nap?

I always thought I couldn't nap, either. I'd get all relaxed and comfortable, turn the tv down way low, and it'd take me almost an hour to get sleepy while, on the couch next to me, my boyfriend will have been snoozing for at least 40 minutes (and is just about ready to wake up at that point). I finally realized that I need to stop trying to get sleepy, and just do what I would normally do when I actually go to bed (as other people suggested) and close my eyes.

Relaxation + eyes closed + after lunch slump = nap time :)

Try turning on a fan, if possible - they'll dry out your eyes if you try to keep them open, thus making you close your eyes to re-moisturize.
posted by odi.et.amo at 6:52 AM on September 25, 2007

I find one thing that really helps with napping is timing it correctly. I usually start getting pretty sluggish about an hour after I eat lunch, especially if I eat rice. Once I feel like I'm about to pass out in my chair, I go to the couch, lie down and close my eyes.

I find that if I try to empty my mind it's harder to fall asleep, and what works better for me is to think about some subject and let my mind wander from it. I take off my watch and put it down so that I can see the face from where I'm lying down, but I don't actually set an alarm. If I limit myself to half an hour, usually 10 - 15 minutes of that will be sleep. Even if you don't sleep it can be quite refreshing to relax and let your mind wander.

Happy napping (:
posted by benign at 7:56 AM on September 25, 2007

start with focusing your mind with relaxation exercises (i.e. imagining your toes are very heavy, then feet, legs etc.). there are several different meditative methods to this end.

if you do this enough, you'll learn to relax your body and fall asleep faster. if you don't fall asleep, you'll still benefit from the "time out."

it might help to wake up a little earlier and/or exercise
avoid caffeine in the late morning
and it helps me to make sure my feet are warm
posted by mrmarley at 9:07 AM on September 25, 2007

Don't worry about falling asleep. Just lay there and try to clear your mind for 20 minutes. Whether you fall asleep or not, the down time will do you good.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:03 AM on September 25, 2007

timory - I always had a very hard time napping as well. On the few occasions I did actually fall asleep, it took me ages to do so - and then I felt worse after waking up, regardless of the length of the nap. I think it's because I achieve such a deep level of sleep that anything less than at least 4 hours of it makes me feel less rested than before.

I'm now a mother of 18-month old twins, one of whom didn't sleep through the night till 14 months, and the chronic sleep-deprivation still did not make it easier for me to nap.

Until... I'm now pregnant again, and I am finally able to take decent naps. Only somewhat, though. It still takes me quite some time to fall asleep in the middle of the day, unless there are other sleep-inducing factors (heavy meal, orgasm, zero stress, super-coziness). And I still don't ever feel refreshed, just a bit less tired.

So, I don't know. I'm just not a good napper. But I am a very good sleeper at night (I've slept through earthquakes) and given a choice between the two, I'm happy with my lot.

Sorry, not very helpful, but wanted to tell you I know how you feel...
posted by widdershins at 10:18 AM on September 25, 2007

Oh, and I could do all the mind-relaxation/meditation techniques in the world, and stuff my ears with wax, and darken the room, and clear the room of anything but a bed in it, and it wouldn't make a difference. It's like my body knows that it's just not time to sleep. I think some people are just like that.
posted by widdershins at 10:20 AM on September 25, 2007

I don't sleep in a 15-minute nap but I do get up feeling rested. Maybe thinking of it that way will help.
posted by dame at 11:27 AM on September 25, 2007

I have similar problems napping, and what works for me is to settle in with the tv on. I turn the volume to an acceptable level - it's not loud, but I can still hear what's going on if I want to. Then I get into a comfy sleep pose and I usually fall asleep within 15, 20 minutes or so. The benefit of keeping the tv on is that it also wakes me back up - gently, since the volume is low - after I've been asleep for the proper amount of time, usually 20-30 minutes. I can only do it if I've got an hour to kill because I find knowing I have less time than that just stresses me out - I think I'm going to sleep through an appointment or something. But it's the most success I've ever had with napping, outside of being totally, utterly exhausted and having nowhere to be.
posted by AthenaPolias at 6:37 PM on September 25, 2007

(I'm female, and if anything, orgasms wake me up. It's like getting the heart pumping, like after exercise. Apparently we just aren't all the same.)

My advice is to practice napping. As others have said: at first, try just lying down. The first few days/weeks you might just lie there for 15 minutes without falling asleep. But this might help you learn to relax faster.

I, too, only fall asleep quickly when I'm already wicked tired. Otherwise it's always a challenge. But I've learned that, so far, almost anything can be learned.

Replace "lie" with "lay" as appropriate ... I always have to look that one up.
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:29 PM on September 26, 2007

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