There is a little to consider when picking what time of day you are napping. The key thing I have learned is to pay attention to why I am napping and not to nap after 5 pm. Depending on the reason for napping I find these are the key times I would possibly nap.
1- The late morning / pre-lunch nap
This nap would usually be a result of a poor night's sleep as mentioned above or as a result of a very early morning for me as a night owl.
People who are naturally early birds would probably find this is their prefered napping time on a given day.
2- The post-lunch nap
This is the nap most of us are best friends with. It's a natural nap time because digesting food takes energy. The energy diverted to our digestive system just naturally makes us lull. I usually found on a normal day this would be a lighter shorter nap. Depending on the meal I have just eaten or the intensity of the mornings work this could be longer.
Around two to three in the afternoon your temperature temporarily drops, suggesting that we were designed to have an afternoon nap.
3- The late afternoon nap
These naps would follow an intense day of meetings and tight deadlines. This nap is not always obvious that I needed it. My brain would be running at 100mph and the late afternoon nap would usually be a result of mental fatigue influenced by a post-lunch lull.
My trigger to nap would usually be the cravings for coffee or sugar at this time to keep me going.
These were the best naps for me. I would come back with so much more clarity and pace. The days I failed to recognise I needed this break I would end up working late and look back trying to figure out why I am still working.
4- Early evening meditation
Sometimes I would be reaching the end of my workday and it's 6 pm or 7 pm. The urge to nap would kick in with force. These are the hardest because I knew better than to nap. If I don’t nap I would feel as if I can’t carry on with my evening plans.
This is nap time you need to be aware of. If I napped now it would affect my ability to fall asleep later and it would also affect the quality of sleep. Looking back I now understand why it affects my night sleep.
The sleep hormone adenosine builds up over the course of the day and creates the urge to sleep. It gets depleted when we nap, and napping this close to bedtime would mean there is not enough time to replenish this vital sleep hormone.
Have you ever had that feeling where you are exhausted but cannot actually fall asleep and shut off? This can be a feeling you would get if you used up this hormone.
So what I discovered in these instances is meditation, yoga or a breathing exercise would be enough to keep me going. It would give an opportunity for my overworked brain to rest. I also learned not to go for the caffeine. I will go deeper into caffeine on another post, but in short, caffeine stays in your system for at least 6 hours and affects the quality of your nighttime sleep. Even if you are able to fall asleep after having caffeine it doesn’t mean you had a good sleep.