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Ask the trainer: Nap guide

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Photography by Dave Laus

Question: Are naps okay if I am not getting enough sleep during the night, and if so, how long should they be?

Rest, it’s part of any plan. Sleep plays a vital role in your health and well-being. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps to protect your mental health, physical health, overall quality of life and even safety. Many people find it hard to get enough hours of sleep during the night and eventually this can raise your risk for chronic health problems.

In our sleep-deprived age, naps can be a powerful tool for self improvement. They can help improve learning and memory, heighten creativity, increase productivity and prevent burnout.
But how long should they be? It depends. You can actually tailor your nap to your specific needs.

» 10 to 20 minutes. The power nap. This length is ideal for a boost in alertness, stamina and motor learning skills. It limits you to lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, making it easier to hit the ground running when you wake up.
» 30 minutes. Great for decision-making skills. Sleeping this long may cause sleep inertia, a groggy feeling that lasts for a little while after you wake up. Then the nap’s restorative benefits become apparent.
» 60 minutes. Best for improving the retention of facts, faces and names. It puts you in slow-wave sleep, the deepest type. You may also experience some grogginess upon waking.
» 90 minutes. Great for those who need a boost in creativity. This is considered a full sleep cycle. It includes the light and deeper stages including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
It leads to improved emotional and procedural memory and enhanced creativity. Waking up is usually easier after a nap this long.

Sleep deep
To increase your sleep time, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally would every night for a week. Add 15 minutes a week for four weeks. After a month, you will be sleeping an hour more a night, which will dramatically improve the way you feel.

Bedroom rules
Before bedtime, set the thermometer a couple of degrees below your normal daytime temperature. Dim the lights. That includes shutting down your electronics—artificial light fools your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Light makes your pineal gland inhibit production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.

Don’t drink before bedtime to avoid middle of the night washroom runs. Especially avoid alcohol before bed because falling blood alcohol levels disrupt deep sleep.

Noise helps
Common sleep problems such as insomnia can actually be helped with noise. When a noise wakes you up at night, it’s not the noise itself that wakes you up but rather the sudden change in sound. Sleeping with a noise maker or any other white noise such as a fan creates an audio mask effect that will block out any sudden nighttime noises.

Have a question?

Nichelle Laus is a proud mom of 4 boys under the age of 8; she has trained and competed at an amateur level in both boxing and kickboxing for over 20 years. She is a certified personal trainer, kickboxing and kettlebell instructor, motivational speaker, and fitness and cover model. She is a Figure and Bikini competitor, and competition and transformation coach for Team Laus. She loves to teach and inspire others.


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