“Are You Napping Correctly?

As college students, we’re all very familiar with naps. Whether it’s because we have a spare moment to rest or are procrastinating the paper we have due in the morning, we have a tendency to sleep for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day. Waking up is typically difficult and puts us in a slump for the rest of the day.

So what can we do to make sure our naps are effective? Dr. Erica Thomas, professor of wellness at Elon, explains how she interprets our extensive 2 to 3 hour naps. “Students are not getting enough sleep at night and try to make up for that sleep debt in the afternoon.”

Dr. Thomas explains that “sleep debt” occurs when students “skimp on sleep all week,” by not getting the proper 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. “You cannot make up for that by sleeping longer on Saturday or Sunday,” she explains. Although naps can often supplement lost sleep overnight, they will not eliminate sleep debt from the week.

To take a proper power nap, Dr. Thomas suggests doing so before 3 P.M. because “any later and you will disrupt your nighttime sleeping schedule.” To allow yourself to fall asleep in the afternoon, she recommends limiting caffeine after noon.

Keep in mind that “a short nap can actually improve productivity,” which is why naps should be 20 minutes or less. By taking a longer nap, “you end up going into deeper sleep cycles” which will leave you feeling groggy when you wake up.

To prepare for your power nap, Dr. Thomas suggests that you “make your space cool and dark, with minimal distractions. Nap purposefully, rather than just falling asleep while doing another task.” At the end of your nap, make sure to “give yourself time to gently wake up” and “make sure you are drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and an inability to focus.”

Although Dr. Thomas has tips and suggestions to make the most of your naps, she still vies “for trying to get enough sleep every night. Of all of the healthy things you can do for your body, I advocate that students pick getting enough sleep as number one priority. Getting enough sleep sets students up for success.”

In preparation for this article, Dr. Thomas consulted the National Sleep Foundation and the Mayo Clinic for supplemental information.”

-Samantha Steinman, October 29, 2019, The Edge