Limit the length of your snooze
Sleep experts have found that the length of your nap has a huge effect on how alert you feel afterward. It all has to do with sleep cycles. A quick power nap should last between 10 and 26 minutes (it gets this specific for a reason: NASA scientists found that a 26-minute nap improved pilot performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent). An hour-long nap will trigger rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which helps improve memory, and a 90-minute snooze will get you through a full sleep cycle, which can boost creativity and emotional memory, the scientists said. Beware of sleeping for longer than 90 minutes; you’ll get drawn into “sleep inertia” and enter a new sleep cycle and won’t get any additional benefits. Plus, you could negatively affect your nighttime sleep. These tips can help you snag better nighttime sleep.
Align the time of your nap with the time you woke up
istock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund
For most people, the best time to nap is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. But if you subscribe to an unusual sleep schedule (super early mornings or late nights), it’s best to align the time of your nap to the time you woke up. Sara Mednick, PhD, psychologist and author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life, created a nap wheel just for this purpose. All you have to do is enter the time you woke up. The wheel will output your ideal naptime for that day (for example, if you woke up at 5 a.m., nap at 1 p.m.; for 6 a.m., nap at 1:30 p.m.; for 7 a.m., try 2 p.m.; for 8 a.m., try 2:30 p.m.). Trying to wake up earlier? Check out these tips for being a morning person.