What’s the best pick-me-up when you’re feeling sluggish?

Napping is a natural (and calorie-free) way to reboot. An afternoon nap can rev your energy level without the cost to your wallet (and waistline) of a snack…and the likelihood of a sugar crash later on. Also keep in mind: The caffeine in any coffee drink late enough in the afternoon can have a negative affect your nighttime sleep…and not sleeping at night may contribute to your midday lethargy. That’s a merry-go-round you want to get off.

If you’ll be staying up beyond your regular bedtime, an afternoon nap beforehand will…

A planned nap (also called a preparatory nap) is what many people do on New Year’s Eve, and it works just as well if you’ll be burning the midnight oil for less festive reasons. A 20-minute nap will give you the energy you need without affecting your normal sleep schedule. Other types of useful naps: According to the National Sleep Foundation, emergency napping works if you’re suddenly overcome by fatigue and can’t function without a rest, like the driver who pulls to the side of the road to catch a few ZZZs. Habitual napping or taking a short nap at the same time each day, like after lunch, helps some people feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.

To get the most from a nap, which one of the following should you not do?

Exercising too close to a nap (as well as too close to bedtime) can leave you too wired to drift off. It’s better to exercise at least two hours before napping. And to make your nap even dreamier, make your surroundings more conducive to napping—silence your phone, dim the lights, slip off your shoes and clear your mind. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature—it should be cool enough that you’ll want to slip under a blanket. If you don’t doze off right away, try a fast head-to-toe de-stress. Moving from your neck and shoulders down to your feet, tense and then release the muscles of each body part.


The worst place to take a nap is…

Falling asleep on your desk, especially with your head cocked to one side, puts a lot of strain on your spine. You could wake with back and neck pain, muscle cramping and impaired circulation—not the intended outcome of some shuteye. If a quick snooze deskside is your only option, try it facedown with your forehead propped up on your crossed arms. This allows for better breathing. Napping on a couch is much better—but don’t, as many people do, lie with your neck bent up by the arm of the couch—that’s also a recipe for pain!

When is the best time of day to nap?

A nap needs to happen early enough so that it won’t impact nighttime sleep but not so early that your body isn’t really ready for it. Most people find that sometime between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM is perfect. If you don’t work the usual 9 to 5, adjust nap time accordingly. One rule of thumb is to slot it in seven hours after you wake up.

How long should a nap last?

The sweet spot for nap length is between 10 and 30 minutes. A small study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that a 30-minute nap could reverse the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. For a simple refresh, 10 minutes can often be enough, according to a research review published in the Journal of Sleep Research. Beyond 30 minutes, you’re more likely to feel foggy…and tempted to go back to sleep, though other research has found sharper-thinking benefits to naps of a half-hour and up.


Despite its benefits, napping can have a downside. Which one of the following is not a potential downside of napping?

Although scientists don’t yet know why, studies have found a connection between daily napping for more than an hour and developing metabolic syndrome (thought to lead to diabetes), diabetes itself and even heart disease and mortality in general. But while you do expend more energy (calories) taking a walk than a nap, sleeping itself does not cause weight gain. A more immediate concern: A long nap can leave you feeling disoriented, a condition called sleep inertia. It’s short-lived, lasting less than 30 minutes, but long enough to keep you from performing at your best after waking. And if you regularly have a hard time sleeping through the night, a nap might make the situation worse.