Monday, May 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Naps: The Natural Pick-Me-Up

I am a huge advocate for naps. Usually, you can find me waking up from my early evening nap and preparing for a night out, or less favourably and more commonly, settling in to grind down on a night full of homework. Lately, I’ve been wondering – are these naps helping me or just helping me procrastinate?

Unsurprisingly, napping has a number of benefits including reducing fatigue, increasing alertness, and improving mood. In addition, as bad sleep can increase the amount of stress hormones and negatively affect the immune system, a quick nap can reverse the hormonal impact that comes with a night of bad sleep. Although, napping only benefits you if used properly (think great power, great responsibility). Lucky for you, I’m here to give you a brief guide to how to most effectively nap.

Firstly, your naps should last between ten and thirty minutes. Shorter naps won’t leave you feeling as groggy as longer naps can, meaning you’ll be able to quickly get back to work feeling ready to do your best.

Next, prime time for napping is in the middle of the day — between 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. — because it’s least likely to interfere with nighttime sleep, plus you usually experience the post-lunch sleepiness between these times. Also, because this leaves you napping in the middle of the day, it is important that you make sure your surroundings are primed for sleeping.

Try to find somewhere dark, with little noise, and a comfortable temperature as these are factors that affect sleep quality.

On the other hand, napping can disrupt your sleep schedule. Our natural circadian rhythm — which pretty much regulates all the body’s functions — ensures that our bodies begin to feel drowsy during the night time and awake during the daytime (I know, the wake-up part of mine is messed up too). Napping too late or for too long can disrupt your body’s rhythm and leave you feeling alert when you mean to go to sleep.

So, to relate this to student life, studies show that taking a nap can improve your memory. This means a short nap after a study session can help you retain the information you just learnt, and it can act as a way to reward yourself after your hard work (two birds, one stone). Student life is filled with late nights, so try a caffeine nap to give you that extra boost you need to finish your work. If you nap during the twenty minutes it takes caffeine to kick in, you’ll wake up to the caffeine boost and feel extra sharp and productive.

Whether you’re coming home from a long day at the uni, or settling down to write that essay you said you weren’t going to leave to the last minute but did, try a nap to get you started. It might be the best way to obtain that natural pick-me-up you need to get through the tough times at uni. •