Looking for a boost of energy in the afternoon? Try a nap

Get past your post-lunch dip with a siesta

Photo credit: Hernan Sanchez

A nap can help you with low energy that you experience after lunch. Also known as the post-lunch slump, you may feel a bit tired or sluggish shortly after your afternoon meal. This naturally happens from a dip in your circadian rhythm which is your body’s master clock, and a change in your glucose (blood sugar) levels. Resting your mind and eyes for a short period may be just what you need to feel refreshed again so you can get through your day.

The myth of “Naps are for Lazy People”

Some people view naps as something that a lazy or unproductive person does. What if I told you that top performers use naps as a tool to perform at a high level and get things done?

Professional athletes including NBA and NFL players depend on naps as part of their daily routines. From The New York Times: “In the NBA, LeBron James swears by his siesta. Derrick Rose sleeps three hours before every night game. Kobe Bryant checks into a hotel before home games for his pregame nap.”

“When you wake up from a nap, you know what time it is, you know it’s time to get ready and get focused and go to the game.” -Stephen Curry

If your job depends on delivering results, then you can also leverage power naps in the afternoons to get a quick recharge.

Maximize the benefits of your nap

Research shows that a short nap of a period of 30 minutes will boost cognition which means you’ll be able to think more clearly. Any longer than half an hour and you’ll begin to enter a deep sleep which can result in you feeling tired when you wake up due to sleep inertia.

Here are some recommendations for getting the most from your naps.

  1. Find a quiet location so you can minimize distractions. Your nap will be short so enjoy it by choosing a spot where you won’t be disturbed by continuous noise or people around you.
  2. Choose a stable area for your body to rest. Safety is essential! You do not want to fall and hurt yourself as you doze off. Select an empty office, a chair in the corner of a utility room, a couch or seat in the team member lounge, or your car in a shaded/covered parking spot for some shut eye.
  3. Set a timer on your phone to wake you up after 20 to 30 minutes. Get comfortable and then set your timer on your phone and start it. Then close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and soon enough you’ll fall asleep.

Want to take your naps even further?

A sleep mask is inexpensive and will block out light from your eyes and noise canceling headphones will dampen the sound around you and can be plugged into your phone. Both will help improve the quality of your naps.

If you have a tough day where you are feeling extra sleepy, then having a small cup of coffee just before your nap in the afternoon can help you turn things around. This technique works because it takes the caffeine about 15 minutes to reach your brain, so you awake from your nap feeling revitalized from the combination of the caffeine and the nap. The caffeine + afternoon nap combination should be used sparingly as too much caffeine can backfire and trigger a vicious cycle where you’ll have extra energy during the day but then struggle to fall asleep at night which will then leave you feeling sluggish again the next day.

While naps can help you get a boost in the afternoon, they are not a long-term solution for sleep deprivation. Sleep hygiene which are positive habits that improve your sleep starts with small changes such as putting down your phone at least one hour before bed. These type of practices in the evening helps your body to know that it is bedtime.