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Day Napping 101: 4 Tips for Optimizing Nap Time

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Day napping is an essential part of college. It is not always the case that you will be able to get a solid night's sleep, and even if you do, stress can be exhausting. In order to be able to sneak in these essential day naps, you need to schedule them for the right time and make sure you are maximizing those minutes!

I discovered the day nap by accident. One day I fell asleep reading a book for class and woke up a half an hour later feeling like I could take on the world. From that point on, I napped at least once a day between classes, and on days when I worked out, I napped at least twice a day.

All that napping qualifies me to give you a few tips, right?

1. Keep it short.

I've found that naps longer than 40 minutes can mess up your sleep cycle and are likely to leave you feeling more groggy than refreshed. Nap longer than an hour and a half and you may have a hard time falling asleep that evening. I always set an alarm for 25 or 30 minutes because it takes me more than one minute to actually fall asleep.

2. Wake up fast.

Personally, I use an alarm that increases in volume every time it goes off. It's also important that you pull the shades, make sure your room is cool, and don't watch TV to try to fall asleep. The light from the television or computer screen actually reduces your quality (and thus efficacy) of sleep, even if you do manage to fall asleep.

3. Time it right.

Also essential is determining the right time of day to take a nap. Don't take a nap right before you have class. You do not want to show up to class looking like you just rolled out of bed, and you definitely don't want to sleep through it! I took a couple naps about 30 minutes before class and ended up waking up with ten minutes left in the class.

An excellent time to take a nap is right after a class. While you sleep, your brain will be able to synthesize the information you just learned. Then, you can wake up and have time to get work done before your next class. I also would not recommend napping later than 6 p.m. If you do so, you run the risk of falling asleep for the evening. There have been numerous times when I went to take a nap around then, and then wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning wondering what happened.

4. Be consistent.

Try to take a nap at the same time each day so that your body gets used to the schedule. This will make it easier to both fall asleep and wake up from the nap. The most crucial time to nap is when you did not get a good night's sleep the night before. When this happens, you go into sleep debt, a debt which is double the hours you did not sleep.

While it is good to nap every day, at the very least make sure you nap when you didn't sleep well the night before. Of course, this doesn't mean you should not make sure to get a good night's sleep every night. REM (or dream) sleep is essential to your health!

Naps are a wonderful way to refresh your mind and body and can make up for inconsistent and interrupted college sleep time. Happy day napping!