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Medicine or Malarkey: Can Naps Help Your Holidays?

To some, naps are a saving grace—a few minutes of respite that help to recharge the batteries, refocus the mind, and provide the second wind needed to get through the second half of the day. Taking short naps, particularly around the holidays, can provide a mental boost, allowing you to enjoy more of the festivities.

While some people may seem more capable of taking a mid-day nap than others, we all could benefit from this mental break, especially as we fend off the stress and pandemonium of the holiday season.

How can naps improve your mental, physical and spiritual self during the holidays? It all comes down to the length of your nap.

Benefits of Napping (during the holidays and all year long!)

1. Increase alertness and motor learning skills

A morning filled with long lines, busy parking lots, and lots of shopping is enough to slow down anyone’s motor skills. But you need your fine motor skills in order to safely get back home, wrap your presents, and finish decorating the house!

What do you do?

Science shows that a 20-minute nap—referred to as the stage 2 nap—can help you gain back alertness and motor skill so you can be more productive.

2. Get creative following your naps

If your day of holiday shopping and stresses has wiped you out, consider taking a 30-minute nap in order to be your best, creative self later on in the day. An additional 10 minutes added to the typical 20-minute nap can help boost memory and enhance creativity.

3. Decision making and recalling directions

Need to go to a holiday party at night, but afraid you’ll be too tired to find your way? Slow-wave sleep—which usually occurs in naps that are 30 to 60 minutes long—can give you back your recall capabilities in a flash. That can help you stay safe on the road after a long day, as you’ll be better prepared to make split-second decisions.

4. Be the problem solver you know you need to be

Rarely is there a holiday season that doesn’t have problems that you need to solve… and that can be difficult when your patience is thin and exhaustion has taken over.

However, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep—which can occur in 60-to-90-minute naps, will help create new connections in the brain, giving you the ability to solve creative and challenging problems.

Mastering the Perfect Nap

Knowing the benefits of a nap is one thing. But for some, naps are like unicorns—some mythical beings which they are convinced simply don’t exist. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your nap and get to sleep more easily!

  • First, it’s important to note that while there are many benefits to longer naps, the downside is that the longer the nap, the harder it’ll be to wake up from it. If you want to avoid feeling groggy following your nap, keep it to under 20 minutes.
  • Secondly, whenever possible, plan your naps. Ideally, you’ll take your nap before you become over-exhausted. If you plan naps into your day, you’ll know your break is on the horizon, which can help you get through that final push at the mall, or behind the wheel.
  • Next, find a dark and quiet place. Noise, light, and distractions can disrupt your ability to sleep. These might be harder to avoid during the holidays—to limit distracting sounds, consider using earplugs or listen to white noise (white noise can be found for free on many smartphone app’s, and may be included with modern clocks or alarms). You may also consider an eye mask from the drugstore to block out extra light.
  • Don’t get caught napping during holiday festivities! Go lie down for a comfortable, restful nap. If you’re exhausted, you’ll likely have no problem falling asleep sitting up. However, studies show you’ll fall asleep faster, and more soundly, if you lie down in a comfortable place.
  • As you lie down to fall asleep, push aside that voice in your head reminding you of all the things you need to get done, such as more holiday shopping, food preparation, and hanging up those Christmas lights. Instead, try focusing on your breathing, or using other meditative techniques to quiet the mind.     
  • Finally, set your alarm. You don’t want to sleep longer than you intend, so always set an alarm to wake you up within your preferred time frame. That way you don’t drift into other sleep cycles that might leave you feeling drowsy.