(Illustration|Tribune News Service)
(Illustration|Tribune News Service)

Imagine it is early afternoon and you’ve just walked out of your last class. You’ve got a busy schedule for the rest of the afternoon and just enough free time to finish your homework. You’re feeling confident that you can get everything done, but then the afternoon slump hits you hard and all you want to do is take a nap.

You convince yourself that taking a nap will only make your more tired. When your body insists upon lying down, you start to tell yourself that if you sleep now you won’t be able to sleep later.

Once you have finally convinced yourself to lie down and take a nap you end up tossing and turning for 30 minutes. You wake up feeling worse than you did before and can’t seem to figure out why. The National Sleep Foundation offers some great tips on their website to improve the quality of your afternoon nap. I’ve made a list of my five favorite tips.

1) Keep the room dark – This might seem obvious, but even a small amount of light can make it difficult for your body to transition into sleep mode.

Find a room in your house that allows in the least amount of light. If the blinds are closed and the room still feels too lit remember that you can use a sheet or blanket to help block out the remaining light.

2) Keep the room cool – Falling asleep can be hard if you’re sweating. A cool room will help promote a restful nap. It is essential to find a balance between cool and cold that works best for you. You don’t want to end up shivering, but don’t be afraid to take the temperature down a little more than you’re used to.

3) Naps should be short – A nap should be around 20 minutes minimum and definitely no longer than 30 minutes. When a nap goes past the 30 minute mark you can end up messing with your regular sleep cycle.

Sleeping for longer than 30 minutes can leave you with a case of sleep inertia, which is the amount of time it takes someone to stop feeling groggy after waking up.

4) Have a quick cup of coffee – A good trick to give your nap twice the power is to have a cup of coffee, or some other type of caffeinated drink, before you tuck in for a 20 minute snooze.

The trick behind this last tip is that is usually takes about half an hour for the caffeine from a coffee to kick in. By the time you are finished napping you should wake up feeling refreshed and also more energized from the sleep and caffeine combination.

5) Nap before 2 p.m. – It is important to keep your naps early in the afternoon. It is preferred to keep all your naps before 2 p.m. This will prevent your naps from interfering with your normal sleep cycle.

Now that you are equipped with a few tips you can make your afternoon naps count. Remember, don’t be afraid to give into a quick afternoon nap every now and then. They can help you finish out your day more productively and give your mind and body a much-needed break from the stresses of everyday life.

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