How To Nap & Not Feel Like A Zombie After

Photographed by Bianca Valle.
Naps are the bomb — just ask Corinne from The Bachelor, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Chrissy Teigen, or any baby you know. As glorious as a little snooze might be, though, if you sleep a little too long, you can end up feeling like a soulless corpse roaming the earth.
Usually, when you wake up groggy from a nap, it's because you've drifted into the "deeper stage" of sleep, so your body feels interrupted, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of behavioral sleep medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center. "A shorter nap keeps you in lighter sleep, but it is sufficient to help you feel refreshed when you wake up," Dr. Harris says. And even though naps can be delicious, if you feel like you have to take a nap every day, that could be a sign that you have a sleep disorder, she says.
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If you're one of those people who can just nap wherever you are, bless you, but it ain't that easy for a lot of people. Napping takes technique, and experts swear by it. The basics: Make it quick, plan it early, and get comfy. Here's how to take the perfect nap and wake up with energy after.
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Don't nap for makeup sleep.

Daily power naps work for some people, but if you feel like you need to nap daily just to feel human, it could be a sign that you're not sleeping enough at night, Dr. Harris says. Naps shouldn't be a crutch for sleepless nights: "It might help short-term to get you through the day for a few more hours, but it really isn't going to do your body and brain any good in the long run," she says. But if you think you sleep fine during the night and need multiple naps a day (or just feel sleepy), Dr. Harris says you should consider talking to your doctor about "excessive daytime sleepiness," which is a symptom of a sleep disorder that affects around 20% of the population, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
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Keep it under 30 minutes.

The ideal length of time to nap is between 20 and 30 minutes, Dr. Harris says. If you take any longer, it can interfere with your ability to fall or stay asleep at night, and will probably make you feel more tired when you wake up, because after that point you're in a deeper level of sleep, she says. And if you feel like you can't fall asleep in that time frame, add five minutes to dedicate specifically to falling asleep, and don't get frustrated. "You can't force sleep to happen," Dr. Harris says.
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Have a 2 p.m. cut-off time.

You might've heard of "disco naps," when you take a nap right before you go out at night. That might work if it's short enough, and on the weekends when you stay up later, but people who typically go to bed around, say, 11 p.m. shouldn't nap past 2 p.m. Dr. Harris says napping past that time can throw you off at nighttime when you're trying to go to bed. You can adjust this time frame based on when you go to bed, but the same basic principle applies.
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Do it in your bed.

You might end up doing most of your napping on the couch or at your desk, but ideally, you should nap in bed, Dr. Harris says. Some people have no trouble using neck pillows, or just sleeping in a chair, but you'll be able to take the most effective and efficient nap if you're in bed, because your body is used to sleeping there already. Shoot for your bed, but if you can't have one on-demand at all times, it's not the end of the world, Dr. Harris says.
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Drink coffee before.

Another popular nap technique is the "coffee nap," in which you drink a cup of coffee right before taking a nap for 20 minutes, Dr. Harris says. "Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to hit your bloodstream," she says. So if you drink coffee, then nap during those 30 minutes, when you wake up, you may be extra awake and "get double the effects of caffeine and a nap," she says. But again, this isn't a substitute for a good night's sleep, and you shouldn't have to rely on this type of nap daily.
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Go dark.

Duh, but falling asleep is way easier if you're in a quiet, dark, cool, comfortable room, Dr. Harris says. Some people swear by eye masks to nap in total darkness, and Dr. Harris says it might be worth it to invest in some other tools, like earplugs or even a white noise machine, if you're having trouble falling asleep.
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