How to have a 5-minute nap that leaves you refreshed, not groggy

To the horror of many, I used to regularly nap for eight minutes as a student, between my three part-time jobs, lectures, and gym sessions. Now I can barely wake up after a 30 minute nap.

But at the time, micro-naps worked for me. So is there some wiggle room in the long-held belief that naps should be around 45 minutes – no more and no less – to account for one full sleep cycle?

Dr Katherine Hall, sleep psychologist at Happy Beds, says for some people, micro-naps have value.

‘A micro-nap is a very brief and short episode of sleep that can last a few minutes,’ she says.

‘They often happen involuntarily and are associated with a sensation of nodding off or daydreaming.

‘A person will suddenly feel an overpowering onset of sleepiness or drowsiness due to being extremely sleep deprived, fatigued, or when completing a monotonous activity.’

Some micro-naps are unintentional, like when you nod off on a train, but some people can use them strategically.

Dr Katherine says: ‘Micro-naps can offer some benefits, but it all depends on your situation.

‘For example, perhaps you’re tackling a task that needs your full attention, yet your brain is feeling drained.

‘In cases like these, a quick micro-nap could temporarily recharge your brain. Imagine it as a short power nap that might give your focus a boost when you wake up.’

It’s a trick that might be more beneficial for shift workers, especially those who work at night and could benefit from a brief respite.

However, it’s not a ‘universal solution’, she adds.

‘The extent of this brain boost can vary from person to person. Different factors like your usual sleep needs, your overall health, and your daily routines come into play.’

How can you avoid feeling more groggy after?

‘Firstly, timing is key. Aim for a nap of around five minutes so you can tap into the benefits of rest, but without getting so deep into it that you wake up groggy. I’d also recommend setting an alarm to help prevent you from oversleeping. 

‘Once you’re up, replenish your system with a glass of water and, if possible, a banana. These simple choices can work wonders for boosting alertness without the immediate need for caffeine.

‘I’d also recommend engaging in some gentle stretches or walking around for a couple of minutes as this small burst of activity can effectively banish any residual drowsiness, leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle what lies ahead.’

– Dr Katherine Hall

Micro-naps can have a ‘mixed bag of effects’, and they aren’t a substitute for a proper night’s sleep and shouldn’t be the answer to your sleep deprivation long-term.

‘If you frequently find yourself resorting to micro-naps to stay awake, it might signal an underlying sleep issue or chronic sleep deprivation. Consulting your local GP about these concerns would be advisable,’ Dr Katherine says.

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