Have I Been Napping Wrong?

I’ve always had trouble napping. I could be dead tired and in need of a nap, but I’ll close my eyes and nothing will happen. Sometimes my mind will race. Sometimes it won’t. I would say the odds of me being able to fall asleep for 20-40 minutes was about 10-20% until recently. The fact I have trouble napping seems odd because I am a champion night sleeper.

At night, I tend to fall asleep within a minute of closing my eyes, usually around 10:30 PM. From there I often sleep a solid 8 hours. A few years ago I used to wake up early and be unable to fall back asleep. I’ve reduced that problem a lot and recently have been using the sugar/salt sleep hack with amazing back to sleep success.

In the past 5 years, my night sleep has gotten better and better, yet napping success has remained a mystery. However, recently I theorized that the techniques I use for successful night sleep are the wrong strategies for napping.

  • Completely dark environment with blackout blinds
  • Completely quiet environment

Since napping takes place when the sun is out and there is activity, does it make sense to make your napping environment the same as your nighttime sleeping environment? I started to think it didn’t. So I began experimenting. For the past few weeks I have been napping next to a window with some light coming in and I make sure there is some background music. The music is played at a low volume. I often use the site Calm.com for background noise.

Then I close my eyes and imagine a cat napping. And it is working.


My old cat Rainman napping away in the sunlight. 

A few days ago, I tried to go back to my old way of napping and I couldn’t fall asleep. I put on some background sounds and opened the door to allow light into the room and I was able to fall asleep.

Is anyone using different techniques for napping than they use for regular sleep?


Add yours

  1. I like napping in the sun, like a cat. There is something incredibly comforting about that. The most satisfying naps are the ones I take in the late afternoon, with the late day sun streaming from the windows and a breeze blowing. I prefer silence though. Not absolute silence, but just the quiet sounds of daily life. If I had to pick a sound track, I’d choose bird sounds and leaves rustling in the wind.

    If all those conditions are present, and I am feeling sleepy, it guarantees a lovely nap. The kind that you wake up from thinking, well that was nice.

  2. I think if you are getting a sufficient amount of nighttime sleep…it is harder to take a nap. I have gone long periods
    of waking up at around 3:30. Naps were really easy to take then. My body knows how much sleep it needs and it
    gets it one way or another. I also like napping in the sun….

  3. Thanks for the calm.com suggestion.

  4. Stephan Raczak

    Apr 19, 2014 — 4:21 am

    Napping outside in the sun is great. Have a podcast or smooth jazz running in your headphones, and it’s sure to get me doozing. I actually like using calm.com for getting work done. Even though I think they could have a more varied song playlist. I usually skip the ones I don’t really like.

    I recently fell asleep in a MRI tube. Given the hammering noises of the device, I am not quite sure how I managed to. It was probably due to all the cushions and pads the nurse put beneath me for me to feel comfortable. Try using a big pillow beneath your knees – this position feels so natural to fall asleep in.

  5. Technique? I fall asleep sitting up, and wake up when my mouth dries out from hanging open. If I’m really tired, I may lie down at that point or just settle in more comfortably. It’s always in natural light, but never direct (I’d get too hot).

  6. I used to love napping but since I cut out bread, I hardly ever nap. Just a slice or two and I am in coma-doze. Doesn’t matter if its at my desk, or on the road, or watching tv – it will induce the urge for shut eye at a moments notice. The same for chicken, that extra trytophan/serotonin always does the trick. I don’t know if its the starch that does it in the bread, as gluten free will do it too.

  7. @Pauline – I noticed that bacon makes me sleepy. So unless it is the evening, I usually avoid eating it.

  8. I love a dark room, cool clean sheets and pulling the covers back from a made bed to get me in the groove. I play quiet ambient music, turn on the alarm clock if I need to, close my eyes and get in to the zone…which is 3 deep breaths (which usually includes a few big yawns) and get in to total relaxation. I empty my mind of everything and fade to black. I can usually fall asleep in 5 minutes or less. The best part? I wake up refreshed and ready to go for another 8-10 hours. Usually, the nap doesn’t mess with my night sleep. I’d nap every day if I could!

  9. You know how you can sense the light through closed eyes, like how you know the sun is rising outside your window without opening your eyes? Well my sure fire secret is those stupid sleeping masks. The ones that look like silky facial eye- covers. I found some that were at the drug-store that were light weight foam with a breathable smooth fabric finish. they are embossed or permanently pressed to have a cup shape over each eye- So no irritating feeling on your closed eyes. LOVE-’em Love’em. I kept the hard plastic sleave they were packaged in. I carry them on airplanes and everywhere! In the summer, I keep a folding stadium chair- or loveseatin the trunk of my car for napping at the drop of a hat, or at the park with kids( who are old enough to really go alone) Durring my luxurious 1 hour lunch, I find a partially sunny warm spot, cover my eyes, and the sound of breezes and all else fades into my dark little napping space.
    It is really quite portable and has made all the difference. I used to not be able to sleep after working horrible night shifts. Loud kids and loud people echoing through the house, Bright day light- so the solution: the mask, and like you said, a little white noise makes the sleep predictable and sure. Happy Napping

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