The Art of Napping

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Learn about the importance of sleep and establishing proper sleep hygiene at USD. Sleep is a beautiful thing. However, in college these days, everyone is just plain exhausted. You can see it in students’ posture as they walk, inherent bags under their eyes (those bags must be designer), and the naps they try to sneak in during class lecture. Why is everyone so tired?

You hear it on the news, you hear it from USD’s Student Wellness resources, and you also hear it from people like me: sleep is so important. The facts are there and the statistics tell no lie; sleep is essential to maintaining many aspects of your life, including strong academic performance, a balanced mood, and overall physical health. Look at any two people on campus to see who actually caught some major zzzz’s. One of them is effortlessly glowing (they’re literally radiating their own source of light) and the other is trying to find the best way to situate themselves in class so they can sneak in a quick nap. Is it really worth it to pull an all-nighter to hopefully feel prepared for an exam when in actuality you might end up doing poorer based on a lack of sleep the night before?

About 22.2% of USD undergraduates reported that sleep difficulties resulted in a lower grade on a test/project (USD NCHA 2014). Does this change things at all? Would I have your attention more if I also said sleep deprivation increases your risk for getting cancer? According to the Harvard Medical School, not getting enough sleep leads to major health risks like cancer, along with obesity, increased stroke risk, weakened bone structure and memory loss. We hear about these side effects all the time, yet people rarely seem to improve their sleep schedules.

So I want to propose something…I think our community, among other universities, needs to improve our napping game.

We can argue about how we’re so busy and don’t have time for the suggested 7 – 9 hours of sleep, but what about naps? It seems like we forgot about these powerful little guys, maybe because we have different ideas of what constitutes a good and time-effective nap. Here are some tips that will have you feeling awake and ready to conquer any and all school obstacles.

  1. Take a short nap

Enter the magic that is a power nap: a short nap that lasts about 20-30 minutes (or one sleep cycle) that will leave you with improved alertness and performance and won’t affect your nighttime sleep schedule. It will take some time to get used to this if you’re someone that typically takes 4 hour naps, but you’ll see how much better you feel when you don’t wake up groggy and feeling worse than you did before you started sleeping. Be sure to set your alarm.

  1. Time it right

Typically, it’s best to take your naps before 4pm. You don’t want your naps to interfere with your actual sleep schedule and prevent you from being able to fall asleep at night. The power hours for those naps take place between 1-4pm. The 4pm cutoff also goes for caffeine, too, so that you have an easier time falling asleep later on.

  1. Find your couch

I don’t know about you all, but I think one thing we’re really blessed to have on this campus is the variety of comfortable couches scattered around. Along with that power nap, it’s essential to find that one place that you can call your own; where you feel you belong and can just close your eyes and let it go. There are some great couches in the SOLES study room, UFMC, Maher Lounge on the 5th floor, Crossroads down in the Valley, and the Commuter Commons down in the UC’s. There’s even the great addition of hammocks in strategic places on campus. If you want, set up camp on the grass or just about anywhere else. You could even take a quick nap under a table in Copley Library. You have a ton of options.

And if you drink coffee or other caffeine…

  1. Try drinking your caffeine before your nap

According to the National Sleep Foundation, research suggested that the combination of napping and caffeine proved to have a beneficial effect. The results may vary from person to person, but try drinking a cup of coffee before you take a nap if you normally do drink caffeine. Caffeine takes 20 minutes to kick into your system after drinking it. If you drink a cup of coffee and then take a nap for 20 minutes, you’ll wake up feeling like a brand new person (people won’t even recognize you; you won’t even recognize yourself).

Go forth and conquer finals everyone. Good luck! And good luck conquering the perfect power nap, too.

For more sleep tips, visit the sleep management page.