I recently read an article by Alex Shultz on the best way to take a nap (How to Take the Perfect Weekend Nap). It was really interesting in that it explained all about our circadian rhythm and how our weekend habits can have a different effect to during the week. When you think about it, on the days we are working/at work, we generally push through, we might have a standard routine in the way we do things, when we do them and how etc. There’s generally no time for a nap as each waking hour is jam-packed with tasks, activity, meetings, projects, travel, children, social life etc. This list goes on.
I have always loved my Saturdays, which are totally different from my busy Monday to Fridays. They generally start off getting up early and arriving at the gym by 7:00 am where I train, sometimes for up to 3 hours. Sounds like a lot, but I actually really love these sessions – it’s when I’m in my element and the energy I use seems to just create more and more energy. I can walk away from these sessions feeling absolutely spent, but totally re-energised at the same time. It’s the best feeling. We might go out for breakfast afterward, socialise with our group of friends for a few hours and then maybe a spot of shopping on the way home. By the time we are back home, its generally just after lunch. We’ll do a few things around the house – a load of washing, tidy up, get some things sorted. But as soon as my butt hits that lounge for “just a minute”, I’m done. I can be out cold within minutes. My husband knows not to expect anything from me for the next hour or so. And it’s maybe 2:00 pm…what gives?
To nap or not to nap, that is the question!
Through the week, I don’t stop. I’m moving all day, in and out of meetings, on the phone, writing etc. Sure, there are days I might feel a little tired, my natural energy dip has always been mid-to-late afternoon, but I manage it by managing my energy output throughout the day. So why then on a Saturday, when I’ve probably done all of maybe half the amount of activity I would normally do, do I then crash on the lounge?
According to Shultz, on the weekends we can pay a little more attention to our internal urge to essentially pass out. This is known as our homeostatic process which is the drive to sleep and is influenced by the duration of wakefulness. It is also amplified by physical activity and social interactions. So even though I train every day throughout the week, it’s normally at 6:00 pm at night. Of a weekend after getting up early, training and socialising, my homeostatic drive is enhanced more than normal.
This is also why you feel out of whack after travelling – your homeostatic drive and circadian rhythm are at odds with each other. At home, it’s also possible you get sleepy and want to take a nap if your routine changes, like mine does of a weekend. This too is another reason some people feel tired mid-to-late afternoon – the longer we are awake, the more our homeostatic process is trying to get us to rest. In other words, if you feel a nap coming on, it’s okay to embrace it.
Ultimately, the point of a nap is to enjoy the rest and relaxation it provides and to feel refreshed and re-energised afterwards. My recommendation would be to take it in whatever form it comes whenever you can!