If you hit the afternoon slump feeling tired and sluggish, you’re not alone.
Come 3pm, it’s common to rely on coffees and sugary snacks to perk back up and carry on with the working day.
However, sleep specialist Dr. Carmel Harrington is encouraging people to opt for an afternoon nap to combat fatigue.
Many cultures swear by a siesta, and once you see the science, it’s easy to understand why.
So if you want to stay focused and energised throughout the day, check out how to nap like a pro. But first…
Why do we hit the afternoon slump?
Although you may feel guilty for wanting a mid-afternoon snooze, it’s actually completely natural.
Dr. Harrington explains that “our bodies experience a physiological dip around this time, due to changes in our circadian rhythm.”
If you’ve eaten a carb-heavy lunch or downed a few too many espresso’s mid-morning, that’s going to pile on and make you crash extra hard.
“Well, we can face the afternoon dip one of two ways. We can muddle our way through that two hour period, which is pretty much what a lot of people do. They go to the cafe, grab a coffee or a chocolate bar, and their alertness is pretty poor. So, if you push on through and you’re doing an important task, you probably won’t do it very well.”
Yikes. So, what’s the alternative?
A sleep-specialist approved power nap
Dr. Harrington suggests a 20-minute nap at whatever stage in the afternoon we start to hit a wall.
“Any longer and we enter a state of deep sleep which is much harder to wake up from and we end up with sleep inertia which is that horrible groggy feeling. If we do 20 minutes, we’ll wake up from our light sleep.”
A quick nap gets rid of the neurotransmitter in our brain that’s causing us to feel tired, which satisfies our mind and body’s need for rest.
You’ll find that waking up, you feel refreshed and much clearer.
But, what if you’re someone that struggles to nod off?
Do you spend 15 minutes drifting off then 20 minutes actually sleep?
Or just 20 minutes from the time you lay down to the time you get up?
“Just set your alarm for 20 minutes and lay down. If you don’t fall asleep in that time, then your body isn’t tired enough to sleep. It doesn’t matter if you sleep for two minutes or 20 minutes, the effect is the same. You’ll still feel refreshed.”
Why is this a powerful performance hack?
Apart from the obvious benefit of relieving exhaustion and brain fog, taking this time to power down in the afternoon is scientifically proven to boost motor function, problem-solving, decision making, and creativity.
You’re also able to retain information better in the long run, so it might be worth scheduling your snooze right before an important task or meeting.
The benefits of an afternoon nap are even greater if you can get five minutes of exercise when you wake up (Dr. Harrington personally opts for hula-hooping!).
You’ll find that if you can get your body moving and blood pumping, you’ll have much better energy and focus for the next four to five hours.
So, if you ever need to convince someone to let you take a little afternoon siesta, all you need to do is link them to this blog. Happy napping!