Rarely do any of us get enough sleep, but college students are especially vulnerable to missing out on good quality rest. Fortunately, students usually have flexible enough schedules that allow them to catch up on sleep even during the week. To find out how you can hack the nap, read below for 50 terrific tips for falling asleep, categorizing your naps, and waking up on time.
Benefits of Naps
To get the most out of your nap, you’ll need to find out why they’re good for you in the first place.
- Stress help: Power naps are a great cure for stress, as they help your body relax, breathe deeply, and escape from reality for a short while. When you wake up, you’ll be better prepared to solve problems more effectively.
- Judgment: College students often wrestle with making responsible decisions, and a well-rested mind will help you practice good judgment.
- Increased productivity: If you find that it’s taking you two or three times longer than it should to write a paper or focus on your homework, take a break by taking a power nap. When you wake up, your mind should be able to work more efficiently.
- Meditation and reflection: Dr. Deb points out that a light nap can provide a meditative experience and allow you to consider problems and concepts with more clarity.
- Helps you survive all-nighters: If you have to pull an all-nighter — whether to study or work — take a two to four-hour nap before you plan to stay up. This nap strategy will keep you feeling alert the day after, even though you didn’t get a regular night’s sleep.
- Improve mood: A lack of sleep greatly affects your mood, making you feel cranky, frustrated, overwhelmed and even depressed. A nap will refresh you physically and also psychologically.
Types of Naps
Depending on what you want to accomplish with your naps, you’ll need to figure out which type of nap is right for the moment.
- Power Nap: Power naps are the most useful type of nap to busy students or professionals and can boost your energy, productivity, and even morale as you gear up for a work out, study group, or a late class. Power naps should last for about 20 minutes.
- Restorative Nap: The restorative nap allows you to rest for 90-180 minutes, when you’re especially sleep deprived. It should also put your brain into the REM cycle, improving creativity and sensory processing.
- Caffeine Nap: This nontraditional nap strategy involves drinking a cup of coffee and then lying down for a 15-minute nap. When you wake up, you should feel extra refreshed and alert.
- Emergency Nap: The National Sleep Foundation explains emergency napping as a necessary nap “when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in.” Try to pad your week-day schedules with 10-20 extra minutes for an emergency nap.
- The near-coma: After you pull an all-nighter (and if you didn’t take a pre-nap) or have had an especially hard week mixing partying with studying, you’ll fall into a near-coma. These types of naps can be destructive to your schedule and may prevent you from falling back into a regular sleep pattern for a few days, so try to avoid these if possible.
- The sleep-until-you-wake-up nap: This blogger explains this type of nap as being the equivalent to the “bored nap.” If you decide to take a nap because you have nothing better to do, you probably don’t need it, and risk interrupting your regular sleep schedule.
The Right Nap Environment
Create the ultimate nap environment for power naps by reading this list.
- Turn out the lights: You may think that keeping the lights on will help you wake up again, but a dark room will improve the quality of your nap.
- Try earplugs: Bring earplugs with you to the library or other napping spot so that you can tune out the noise around you.
- Use an eye mask: An eye mask will make you feel like you’re in a cave, and combined with ear plugs, can help you create the optimum nap environment wherever you are.
- Turn off the TV: Don’t try to nap if your roommate is watching TV. Your mind won’t be able to relax and you’ll have trouble falling asleep.
- Outside: Sun, fresh air and natural sounds will help lull your body to sleep. You can open the windows too, for a better sleep indoors.
- The library: Ideally, you should pick a separate spot to study in and nap in so that you’re body isn’t wired to fall asleep every time you set foot in the quiet library.
- Have “napnomic” devices: Figure out what gets you into the nap groove — whether it’s a certain song, snack or blanket.
- Make sure you lie down: Boston.com maintains that it takes 50 percent longer to fall asleep if you’re sitting up.
- Practice positive association: If you feel guilty about your naps, you’ll find it harder to fall asleep and won’t receive as many of the restorative benefits.
- Maintain the right body temperature: Bring a sweater or blanket, but don’t bundle up. Apparently getting overheated will make you sleep too long.
Napping is essentially all about timing. These tips will help you figure out when your body is at its napping peak and how you can fit in more naps.
- Know when you’re tired: Tune into your body so that you can identify the symptoms and signals that indicate you’re tired. This means you’re at the peak time to take a nap and will benefit the most.
- Discover your chronotype: Figure out what time you’d wake up and go to sleep if you had the whole day free. Follow the link to find out how that affects your nap schedule.
- Wake up earlier in the morning: Wake up a little earlier in the morning so that you can get enough done before you nap in the afternoon.
- Set an alarm: Always set an alarm. Otherwise, your naps could turn into complete time-sucks.
- Know when to take a shorter vs. longer nap: Don’t sleep for more than 45 minutes if you need to be active right after your nap.
- Arrive early: Always arrive early to meetings or class so that you have an extra few minutes to rest your eyes.
- Don’t nap too late: Just as you shouldn’t drink caffeine right before bed, don’t take a nap — especially a 45-minute-plus nap — a few hours before you expect to go to bed.
- Supplement your overnight sleep: If you get an hour and a half less sleep one night, a 90-minute nap the next day may be just what your body needs.
Food and Diet
Foods have a real impact on the quality of your sleep and how fast you can fall asleep. This guide will help you avoid certain foods and eat more strategically for the sake of your sleep.
- Avoid high-fat and sugar foods: These heavy foods can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
- Eat high-calcium, high-protein foods: These foods are supposed to promote good sleep and help you fall asleep faster.
- Know the pros and cons of turkey: Turkey contains tryptophan, which makes you sleepy, but many animal foods also contain amino acids and substances that produce adrenalin.
- Eat light: Downing a big meal may make you feel sluggish, but it won’t help you sleep. Eat light meals and snacks for better rest.
- Low-to-medium glycemic index carbohydrates: Whole-grain breads and pastas hit at just the right mark for good sleep.
- Nuts and seeds: This snack can be easily transported in your backpack and will promote good sleep.
Learn how to fall asleep faster to maximize the time you’ve set aside for napping.
- Focus on concepts and possibilities, not details: If you tend to stress about a project as you fall asleep, keep your mind busy but relaxed by thinking of positive possibilities, instead of specific details.
- Update your to-do list: To avoid freaking out about everything you have to do (instead of napping), take a few minutes to wind down and ease your mind by updating your to-do list on paper or your phone.
- Create a routine: Lifehackery.com recommends giving “yourself a concrete physical cue” to signal to your body that you’re ready to fall asleep, like stroking the bridge of your nose.
- Try breathing exercises: Allow your body to breathe deeply and naturally, which you probably don’t do when you’re up and doing something else.
- Study something easy before you fall asleep: Switch to the novel you have to read for class or some easy review lessons as a way to let your mind and body relax.
- Program your iPod: Download a hypnosis track or an application that mimics the sound of crashing waves or crickets.
- Sink into the mattress/floor/chair: Imagine each of your muscles sinking into the surface you’re lying down on to relax.
You’ll need to strike the right balance between getting good rest and not being able to pull yourself out of bed. Here are tips for waking up from your naps instead of rolling over and going back to sleep.
- Don’t get too comfortable: Don’t put on your pajamas and get under all the covers if you have to be up in 20 minutes.
- Schedule something right after your nap: When you have the afternoon open to study by yourself, it’s easy to tell yourself that you can just do it later. Schedule your naps so that you have to wake up for a meeting appointment.
- Stretch: As you wake up your mind, stretch your body, too, and stand up slowly.
- Ask a friend to call or text you: Ask your friend to call your phone or knock on your door when it’s time to wake up.
- Nap on schedule: If you nap and wake up at the same time each day, it’ll be easier for you to get up at the same time, too.
- Let your senses wake you up: If you were fast asleep, it may be difficult to jump up right away. Instead, let your senses take in the environment around you — sounds, smells, temperature and light — so that you reengage your body and your mind to the waking world.