Getting a good night’s sleep is important, but there are some instances when you just can’t get the right amount of sleep at night. This is why some people nap – to make up for lost sleep. Other people take naps as a form of past-time, plus it gives them that fully-restored, relaxed feeling once they wake up.
Research has confirmed that there are many benefits that you can get from napping. Some of these include improving your mood, increasing alertness and creativity, reducing fatigue, and boosting your memory. There are only a few studies on the benefits of napping, with one of them showing how getting a 60-90-minute nap can help you perform a task better after taking that quick shut-eye.
Why you’re waking up with a Headache after a Nap
Unfortunately, not all people experience the wonderful benefits of naptimes. Some actually get really bad headaches after a nap. These post-nap headaches, coupled with grogginess and disorientation, are signs of your body experiencing sleep inertia. The good thing is, this condition can be prevented once you learn a few napping hacks.
What is Sleep Inertia?
Sleep inertia occurs when you suddenly wake up from slow-wave sleep, something that you experience when you take long naps. However, this does not directly mean that the shorter naps you take, the better. There is a suggested range of minutes you can nap, depending on the results you want to get.
How long is an ideal nap?
- 10-20 minutes: ideal for a boost in alertness and energy – commonly called power naps.
- 30 minutes: several studies show that napping at this length may cause sleep inertia. This can last for up to 30 minutes after you wake up before you can feel the restorative benefits of your nap.
- 60 minutes: this is the ideal napping period for people who want to improve their memory. However, you may feel some grogginess when you wake up.
- 90 minutes: napping this long is equivalent to a full cycle of sleep which includes the lighter and deeper stages and rapid eye movement (REM). This helps improve procedural and emotional memory and creativity. Also, you won’t experience sleep inertia, making it easier to wake up and do your tasks.
Another reason for getting a headache after a nap could be irregular sleeping patterns and sleep deficit. Waking up to your alarm at a certain stage in the sleep cycle could disrupt your system and cause headaches, among other effects.
There are some other things you must remember to avoid getting a headache after napping.
- First, it is best to take your naps later in the afternoon and not at night. Research has shown that naps can help improve functioning when done in the afternoon, but night-time naps can give no benefits.
- Second, if you’ve had enough sleep, it is best not to nap. Sleep-deprived individuals greatly benefit from naps, but if you’re just a sleepyhead, constant napping can give you headaches instead of recovery.
If the suggestions above don’t work for you, here are some other suggestions you can try to help make your naps better and avoid getting headaches after a nap.
How to Avoid a Headache after a Nap
Change your sleeping position
Sometimes, it is the way your body is positioned that causes discomfort when you wake up. Try sleeping on your side or on your back instead of napping face down on a table.
Nap at a comfortable place
As much as possible, take your naps somewhere where you can lay down properly instead of just leaning on a desk. Get a good pillow to avoid straining your upper back and neck.
Learn to manage stress
Napping can be quite difficult if you constantly feel stressed. Instead of waking up more relaxed, you might even feel more strained than before you took a nap. Try doing yoga, meditation, or light exercises before napping to help condition your body.
Don’t eat too much
Most people take naps as short breaks from stress, which are also usually coupled with stress eating. Be sure not to gobble up on too much food minutes before napping to make your body more relaxed and so you don’t feel too bloated once you wake up.
Be mindful of your caffeine intake
If you plan to drink coffee, take it before your nap. Caffeine’s effects usually kick in 30 minutes after intake, so you must get that nap right after you drink your coffee. When you wake up 10-20 minutes after, you will feel even more energized.
This is a common problem experienced by many people – not getting enough H2O. Waking up with a headache can be caused by dehydration, so get yourself a glass of water before you take a nap.
Avoid being exposed to allergens
Some people are more sensitive than others, and if you’re one of them, you must avoid napping in areas filled with dust mites. You might wake up with a headache due to sinus infections.
Set an alarm and stick to it
Naps are supposed to help you recover your energy, so you must not overdo it to the point where you get normal sleep. Give yourself enough time to nap by choosing from the range indicated above. Set your alarm and once it rings, get up immediately and continue your tasks. Hitting snooze would only lead you to over napping and more headaches.
In sum, naps are a great way to restore your energy and make you feel rested. A good nap can be achieved by getting the right length and doing it at the right time of the day. 2-3 PM is a highly suggested napping time since your body is naturally sleepy between 1-4 PM.
A proper napping environment is also essential to avoid a headache after a nap, and proper stress management is important to help you achieve rejuvenation. Too much napping is a no-no, just like how oversleeping can bring you more harm than good. Always remember that headaches after naps can be avoided if only you practice napping the proper way. So set your alarm now and take your naps wisely!