Catching Some Z’s

I’ve never considered myself a napper. I’ve always gotten up fairly early, and stayed up until midnight. But as I get older, I’ve been noticing a change. When I go for a ride, I usually follow it up with a nap.

Sometimes, I just drop off in my easy chair, and I wake up when my iPad slips from my hands and falls to the floor. Sunday, it was 90 minutes, and I woke up when my dog jumped on the bed and licked my face. Once in a while, I can be out for as long as three hours.

I must be turning into a lazy bum.

But that turns out not to be the case. (Are you listening, Mrs. Noob?)

It turns out that we’re hard wired to sleep deeply twice each day. Once between 2-4 a.m. and the other between 1-3 p.m. That latter time corresponds with most of my post-ride naps. Our bodies just slow down about that time each day, so our reaction time slows, we’re less alert, our coordination suffers, and our memory isn’t as sharp.

So napping is a natural act, with some worthwhile benefits. After a snooze, we see better productivity, creativity, alertness. On the physical side, naps reduce stress, as well as risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, excessive weight gain.

What I have yet to master is controlling the length of my naps. We get different benefits when we sleep for different lengths of time. For example, a 20-minute catnap will improve concentration, alertness, and motor skills. If you have to do something after you wake up, try drinking coffee just before the nap. The caffeine will kick in after about a half hour. You’ll be rested and rarin’ to go. But you might also want to set an alarm to keep from sleeping too long. Anything over 45 minutes will leave you feeling groggy.

I suspect my longer 90-minute to three-hour naps are my body’s way of telling me I need more sleep at night. I’ve always been able to function fine with just six hours, but my body seems to be telling me different.

Anyway, after pounding the pedals for a three-hour (or longer) weekend ride, I won’t be embarrassed about sneaking in a little sack time from now on.


  1. johnt says

    I must have my little catnap of 20-30 minutes after lunch each day. Even when I had a real job I would shut my office door or on nice days nap in the car. My wife says I’m grouchy if I don’t take one.

  2. says

    Never been much of a napper, I know I’m only 47 and that that may change, but I sleep the sleep of the just when my head hits the pillow at night and generally sleep pretty well.

    On the very rare occasions I have a beer at lunchtime, then that usually induces a sneakyafternoon nap.

  3. Ramonh says

    I read a university study (somewhere, don’t ask me where I put the link) that say that human sleep (light sleep, deep sleep, REM) cycles evolved over time to coincide to about 90 minutes. That means that if you sleep for 6 hours, you are getting 4 cycles. If you wake up between cycles you will feel groggy. That is also the reason why sometimes you can only sleep for 3 hours and wake up and not go back to sleep because you are so refreshed. I usually time my sleep by cycles, and so far it has been a good measure. Additionally, every person’s sleep cycle is a bit different. Some folks’ maybe 80 minutes and others 95 minutes, but it is always around the 90 minute mark. The way to do this is: take a look at the clock, then take an undisturbed nap and let your body wake up on its own. Then take a look at the clock. This way you will get your cycle time :)

  4. says

    Speaking of napping after a ride, when I was first getting back into cycling I would often feel really drowsy after returning from a ride. As it turned out, I was not getting the proper amounts of nutrition and hydration during and especially after a long ride. I was glad to finally figure this out as these “naps” had almost become part of my post ride routine, much to my wife’s dismay. Of course, I still welcome a good snooze when I have the time, but now I don’t feel like it’s a must do.

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