There’s a good reason we often tell you to “sleep it off.” Plenty of studies have proven the restorative perks of a mid-afternoon nap. With just a quick bout of shuteye, you can improve your memory and relieve stress, and it may even aid in weight loss.
(Learn how else A 20-Minute Nap Could Change Your Life.)
But it’s far easier to preach about snoozing on the job than it is to actually practice it. Here’s how to totally nail your napping technique—and become a smarter, healthier, more productive guy.
1. Keep to a Consistent Time
A nap is most effective when your circadian cycle dips—typically between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Napping earlier or later may disrupt your nighttime slumber.
The ideal naptime is 20 to 30 minutes long. Doze for any longer and you’ll run the risk of falling into a deeper stage of sleep, at which point it will feel like you can’t continue your day as normal, says Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Set a boundary for when you’ll nap each day, and don’t violate it, Dr. Winter advises. If you elect to hit the lights from 2:30 to 3 p.m., and a business call runs until 2:40, you don’t get an extra 10 minutes. It’s important for your brain to understand exactly when it’s time to sleep, says Dr. Winter.
2. Condition Your Brain
Struggling to snooze? “Create sensory experiences that you only get when you’re trying to sleep,” Dr. Winter advises. For example, he naps with a blanket that feels like fox skin, so when he feels that sensation, he automatically thinks of sleeping.
Purchase a bottle of lavender and spray it on your pillow or sleep prop. Even if you’re in an uncomfortable environment like your office, your brain will associate the smell with sleep. (Plus, a Wesleyan University study found that people who sniffed lavender before bed were able to sleep better.)
And get creative to get comfortable: You could open your desk drawers to transform them into leg rests, Dr. Winter says. Or you could invest in a snug chair, like Flash Furniture’s Leather Executive Reclining Office Chair ($147, amazon.com).
Dr. Winter also likes the Ostrich Pillow ($94, amazon.com), which looks ridiculous, but is conducive to a good, dark napping environment. Place your head inside the soft pillow, rest it on a flat surface (like your desk), and enjoy some peace and quiet.
3. Don’t Fret If You Don’t Fall Asleep
If you’re feeling fidgety and can’t quite conk out, just relax and enjoy the fact that you’re resting instead of working, Dr. Winter says. Closing your eyes for 30 minutes and evaluating your body can still be restorative, he says.
(For more of Dr. Winter’s easy, effective tips, discover 5 Ways to Sleep Better Every Night.)