- Siri Potluri
Naps & COVID-19
How naps help your mental wellness during the pandemic holiday season.
Cases are rising this holiday season. When we should be with our families, we are instead questioning whether to take that flight or car ride home, putting our loved ones in danger. It’s a hard time for us mentally, especially for students who are far from their family. On top of this, the increase in screen time and Zoom U continues does not help the situation. Many students find themselves sleeping late hours while feeling unproductive and unfocused. It has been known that physical exercise and good eating habits will do wonders for mental health, but something lesser known is self-care, including naps.
Yes, naps can help you feel better during this time of the pandemic but only if they are done correctly. We all know the feeling of waking up from a nap just to feel groggier and more tired the rest of the day. So, what is the best way to take a nap? First, keep the naps short. I was always told to keep my naps between 10 to 20 minutes, or a power nap (Truong 2020; Mayo Clinic 2020). I should have listened to this advice because sleeping more than 30 minutes “gives the body enough time to enter deep (slow-wave) sleep” (Truong 2020). When you wake up from this kind of nap, you will end up with a drowsy feeling for up to an hour, known as sleep inertia (NIH 2016).
Short naps, however, “provide recovery benefits,” including improved mood and performance” (Truong 2020; Mayo Clinic 2020). Additionally, naps can help improve learning, aiding in memory formation, and regulating emotions (Truong 2020). These benefits sound all good, but naps should be considered when you “experiences new fatigue or unexpected sleepiness” (Mayo Clinic 2020). If there is an increase in need for naps, please visit a primary care physician as there could be something else contributing to these symptoms. Additionally, naps are not for everyone. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, naps may exacerbate these symptoms (Truong 2020).
According to Dr. Truong (2020), taking a few keys steps will set you up for a successful nap:
Set an alarm for restorative sleep
Nap before 3 pm
Create a sleep-friendly environment with a comfortable mattress and few distractions
Set aside your worries by practicing relaxation exercises
Reflect on why you are napping: What are your intentions?
By taking these few steps, you will not only feel more energized and focused but you will also feel better mentally. Even if you cannot spend holidays with your family, there is you can do to care for yourself and naps is a great starting place.
Hilditch CJ, Centofanti SA, Dorrian J, Banks S. A 30-Minute, but Not a 10-Minute Nighttime Nap is Associated with Sleep Inertia. Sleep. 2016 Mar 1;39(3):675-85. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5550. PMID: 26715234; PMCID: PMC4763354.