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Spring is about to be sprung. It’s a time to fling open our windows, clean out our closets, and for many people a time to revisit your wellness plan for 2023. Part of designing a wellness plan is scheduling periodic pulse checks and spring is a great time to revisit your plans for the year and check-in.
One major trend in the wellness space already this year has been improving sleep. Yet, for many people getting to bed earlier or staying in bed longer isn’t an option. Young children, caring for elderly parents, busy jobs, and packed social schedules can all limit an ideal sleep schedule.
Just as those with less-than-optimal nutrition might choose to use supplements, napping can help to boost and bolster a good night’s sleep. But are you napping in ways that support your long-term well-being? And how can use a spring sleep reset to improve your overall performance and wellness?
How Sleep Timing Works
Your body has a natural window of sleep as part of your ideal circadian rhythm. This ideal sleep window is genetically pre-set and can shift throughout the phases of life. For example, teenagers have been shown to naturally go to bed a bit later than other adults and wake up later in the morning. However, that trend is being skewed by the overstimulation of phones, tablets, and bright light.
When you go to sleep in alignment with your ideal circadian rhythm, known as chronotype, you’ll get more deep phase sleep. Deep phase sleep is the type of sleep when the brain and body more completely clean, repair, and restore function. The bulk of deep-phase sleep happens early in your natural sleep cycle, so delaying sleep by a few hours misses your opportunity for deep-phase sleep.
Want to learn about chronotypes, sleep phases, and how to coach your client’s sleep?
Within a given bought of sleep, you’ll cycle through different phases of sleep. First is light phase sleep, which you’ve probably experienced as dozing. You’re easily woken up and this phase tends to be the first 20-30 minutes of a sleep window. In healthy sleep, after 20-30 minutes you’ll transition to either deep or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phases of sleep. After about 50 minutes you’ll return to light phase sleep and may even wake up, making a full cycle of sleep phases around 90 minutes.
Building Better Naps
As mentioned above, napping is most effective when it’s used to recover from our mental or physical exertions so we can work more completely at our full potential. Or, if you’re unable to get a full night’s sleep napping can be a supplement. But how to optimize your napping?
• Nap between 1p and 4p: Ideally your napping will not interrupt your opportunity to have a good night’s sleep later. That means exerting yourself, whether mentally or physically, in the morning. Then take a nap after lunch but no later than 4p. Late afternoon or early evening naps are likely to disrupt your sleep that evening.
• Nap less than 30 minutes or about 90 minutes: As you learned above, our 7-9 hours of sleep per night are broken down into natural 90-minute cycles. We’ve all had that experience of waking up after a 60-minute nap and feeling more tired than when we started. That’s because you’ve woken up in the middle of the cycle. You’re either in a deep phase or REM sleep and it’s more difficult to wake up. If you’re using your nap to improve performance but sleeping normally, keep it to 20 minutes. If you’re supplementing a lack of sleep, shoot for the full 90 minutes.
• Control Your Environment: Ideally your napping space should be cozy so you can relax and have a steady volume, so you’re not woken up earlier than you want to be. Being able to fully relax your body increases the speed you’ll be able to fall asleep; a cool environment is also helpful.
• Keep a Normal Schedule: As much as you’re able to, keep your nightly bedtime and your mid-day naps at the same time so they become part of your steady circadian cycle.
Spring Clean Your Sleep
As you move into spring and revisit your wellness plan, take stock:
• How has your sleep been impacted by winter?
• What habits are benefiting your sleep?
• What habits are harmful to your sleep?
• Are you able to get to sleep early enough and consistently enough?
From that improved awareness of your sleep and sleep habits, consider if napping would help you reach your wellness goals:
• What was your main wellness focus for the first part of the year?
• How does sleep impact or improve progress with your wellness goals?
• Are you getting adequate sleep for your goals? How might you know if you’re not?
• Is napping an option in your current schedule or day-to-day life?
• If so, make a plan. On the days a nap would be beneficial: how can you make time? Where will you go to get your naps? Who might you need to talk to or get on board with your napping game plan?
Remember, napping is not a long-term solution to poor sleep. However, it can be an effective mid-day supplement to give you a boost when you’re working hard or a short-term solution when life prevents you from optimal sleep timing or duration.