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.