Exhausted new mums are often told to sleep while baby does. And while it’s not always possible, a sleep expert says that naps do make us more alert, active and better able to cope with life. But not all naps are created equal, here is the low down on the best way to take one.
Sometimes it’s all we can do to stop ourselves from collapsing on the couch or bed and taking a nap. However, many of us often feel worse afterwards. According to one sleep expert this is because we’re doing it wrong!
How Long Is A Good Nap?
The Sleep Health Foundation’s chairwoman professor Dorothy Bruck says it’s best to nap for 15-30 minutes. You might know this as a power nap!
“This will improve your alertness and concentration, a short nap of this length may reduce the risk of falling asleep,” Prof Bruck says.
“Sleeping for a longer time is not as effective. After a long nap, you may wake up feeling groggy. This is called sleep inertia.
“It can make it more difficult to do things well. It may last for a few minutes but can last much longer.”
She says having sleep inertia is more likely if you are not getting enough sleep at night, if you have taken a long nap, or if you have been woken suddenly from a deep sleep.
Why Should We Nap?
Because it’s amazing! Well yes this and also because most mothers don’t get enough good quality sleep at night.
This means they feel tired and sleepy during the day, unable to undertake nearly daily activities. Prof Bruck says napping may help to make us more alert, active and better able to cope during the day.
When Is Taking One A Good Idea?
If you know in advance that you won’t be able to sleep when you usually do, for example your child is teething or is up every three hours for a feed, then a pre-emptive nap is advised.
Those who do night shift work should also take a nap before the shift to help them stay awake at work.
“Naps can also be good at times when you feel sleepy and you are worried about how well you can do things if you continue without rest,” Prof Bruck says.
It might be wise to have a nap if you’re exhausted by know you have to drive you or your newborn to an appointment.
How Can I Make Nap Time Better
Not all people are able to rest during the day. Here is some advice that may help you to nap.
- If you nap regularly, you should try to nap at the same time each day. We often feel most sleepy in the early afternoon, around 2 – 3pm. Being able to sleep during a nap may be easier at this time of day than trying to nap at another time.
- You should nap in a quiet, dark place that is at a comfortable temperature. Close the curtains or wear an eye mask to make it as dark as possible.
- Set the alarm for no longer than 30 minutes, so you know that you won’t sleep for too long.
Don’t Go Overboard
Prof Bruck says while naps are beneficial, we shouldn’t spend too much time napping during the day (what a shame).
This is because it can make it more difficult to sleep well at night. Naps too late in the day can also be bad for your sleep at night. They may make it harder to fall asleep at your usual time.
“A nap during the day does not replace good quality sleep at night. You should make sleep during the night a priority and use napping only when night-time sleep is not enough,” she says.
You’ll find more information on napping here.
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