Should You Nap, or Meditate?
On National Nap Day (it's a thing!), it's important to remember that you have options when it comes to managing afternoon sleepiness!
First of all, it's NORMAL to be tired between 1-3 p.m. Our circadian rhythm (the system that governs our periods of sleepiness and wakefulness, among other processes) naturally lulls us into rest in the afternoon.
According to the Sleep Foundation: "Your circadian rhythm dips and rises at different times of the day, so adults' strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm, although there is some variation depending on whether you are a 'morning person' or 'evening person.'"
This means that the cultures with naptime built into the day (siesta, anyone?) have it right! I have no idea why we stop having "naptime" when we get out of preschool; our sleep needs remain virtually the same!
Ayurveda, yoga's sister science of achieving perfect health, recommends afternoon naps, as well. So it's important to listen to your body and take a nap at this period during the day. But for how long? Many articles I've read suggest that any longer than 20 minutes, and you're bound to feel groggy upon waking and possibly throw off your nighttime sleep rhythm. Power naps are the answer.
Some clients have asked me, can't I just meditate at that time, instead? Of course you can, because the benefits of a nap and meditation are similar (refreshed cognitive ability, reduces drowsiness), but there's one caveat: Researches say that your body craves sleep like it craves food, so though meditating can help treat chronic fatigue, it can't completely satisfy your body's need for sleep. What I tell people is that we meditate to raise our energy levels during our wakeful rhythm period (morning and daytime), and also to encourage higher quality sleep during sleepy rhythm periods (afternoon and nighttime). You'll notice that I do not say "we meditate to not feel sleepy." Your body needs sleep, and new meditators often fall asleep while getting used to meditation because they have been depriving themselves (and meditation helps you listen to your body). More experienced meditators - people who have burned off all that fatigue that people tend to store up as a result of stress - notice that they will prioritize sleep (including naps) and generally avoid things that can impede healthy sleep like too much caffeine, activity or cell phones before bedtime, and simply not getting enough hours of it.
In summary, I recommend meditating first thing in the morning, as well as right when you wake up from your power nap (or if you don't nap, at least lie down on the couch for 5-10 minutes, doing nothing, before you try to meditate, or you'll just fall asleep anyway). I've included a few more tips for napping in this week's Fresh Living segment. You can watch that here!