That is the question! Now, around the time and just before my diagnosis, I was napping, A LOT, and back then I could, I wasn’t working the kids were at school, and it allowed me to escape my pain. However, my sleep at nighttime was completely and utterly screwed. I would spend hours and hours just lying there awake, in pain, and not getting any better, and my fibromyalgia was running a muck!
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t nap, or that I shouldn’t nap, and sometimes I still do, but it is about napping smartly. That right, smart napping. Because napping can be smart (the word smart is now beginning to sound a bit odd and so I should probably stop saying it).
So how exactly should you nap? I should probably point out here that this is more about what I have found useful and what I have learnt along my journey to achieving healthier sleep and overall wellbeing. We are all individual, and just because it works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you, but if your sleep is up the swanny, you have nothing to lose.
As ever I would always recommend you beginning your journey to sleeping better with the beginning of this series, which you can find here, and working your way through, practising each section for a week or two before moving on.
So here are my top tips for smart napping –
1. Stop calling it napping and start calling it recovery periods
When we say we are taking a nap we automatically think of sleeping, and if we haven’t slept for that nap, it can feel like we have somehow failed and feel even more tired than before we started to go for a nap. By calling it a recovery period it take the pressure off actually sleeping and using the time to ‘recover’ and regain some energy (which you do not necessarily have to sleep to do). Taking any time out to just rest your body and your brain can be helpful, I often take myself for 20 minutes just to do some guided mindfulness, which often leaves me feeling better and more energised than if I sleep.
2. Time it well
Whatever you do, DO NOT nap at the wrong time. That’s right, there is a wrong time to nap. If you take into account your circadian rhythm, the optimal time to nap is between 1-3pm, any later and you are likely to disrupt your sleep at night, any earlier and you are likely to throw your rhythm completely out of whack and feel tired for the rest of the day.
3. Nap for just the right amount of time
Maximum napping time should be no longer than 40 minutes to 1 hour (they don’t call it 40 winks for nothing), especially if you are going to actually sleep. Any longer, and you will fall into a deep sleep, and wake up feeling drunk and disorientated and the rest of your day is likely to be very unproductive, and you probably won’t sleep well that night which means you’ll feel crap the next day. So set an alarm, have a big drink of water when you wake and get into some daylight to make your day go better.
4. Practice something other than napping
As I said above, you don’t have to actually fall to sleep to recover. If you find it hard to fall asleep in the time you have, practice some other techniques that will help you feel better. You could shut yourself into a quiet room and do some reading, practice some meditation and mindfulness, or even just sit in the garden with your eyes closed listening to the birds.
5. Keep a sleep journal
Keeping a journal can help you to recognise what napping practices are affecting your nighttime rest and recovery, as well as how you are feeling in the day for the better and the worse. You will be able to quickly identify what is working well for you and eliminate what isn’t helping you.
6. Nap for the right reasons
Whatever you do, do not nap as an escape method from your chronic illness symptoms. If you find you are taking multiple naps, and you are using it to get away from how you are feeling then you may be susceptible to low mood and depression, which you may need to seek help for. If this is you then I urge you to seek help from you family doctor, and find other ways of managing your symptoms. Excessive napping is unlikely to help and you need to find another solution. I now physically nap very rarely, but when I do it is often because I have had a particularly physically challenging morning and need to just get a little rest before the day continues. I do however have recovery periods during the day to help me recover mentally from challenging and my favourite activities are mindfulness and walking in the fresh air, particularly during my lunch break at work (which I must do more often!)
So there are my top tips for recovering like a smart ass. Give it a go (but not before you have worked through my other posts of course!).
Remember, you can find my very easily over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, come give me a wave and share your experiences with chronic illness! You can also leave a comment down below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!