Nap for exactly 20 minutes.
A Common Mistake
I’ve never had trouble sleeping. My problem would fall in the opposite category: by modern society’s standard, I sleep too much. I need at least 7–8 hours of sleep a night or I become a zombie; I can function but higher-level skills (concentration, insight, creativity…) are reduced.
If I lie down and try to nap, I’m usually gone for 2–3 hours. That’s a sizable part of a day! It’s neither desirable nor always (if ever) possible to disappear like that.
Simple! I have a kitchen timer and I set it for 1 hour. That’s reasonable, right?
When the alarm rings, I “wake” up. But all my body want is to go back to sleep. At this point, if I get up I feel terrible and it takes hours until I feel fine. If, instead, I go back to sleep, I’m gone for another hour or so.
I’ve also tried sleeping for 30 or 90 minutes without much success.
I realized I was doing something wrong.
So, I googled:
Beyond the platitudes like go to a quiet place, lie down, and close your eyes there were a few articles that talked about durations.
Sleep comes in five stages. If your nap takes you from stage 1 sleep (just drifting off) to stage 2 (brain activity slows), you will wake up feeling energized and more alert. If your nap takes you into stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep), you will not wake easily and will feel groggy and tired. Sleep stage 1 typically lasts about 10 minutes and stage 2 lasts another 10 minutes. That makes the 20-minute nap ideal for most people (your time will vary to some degree, experiment to learn what works best).
I’ve heard about 20-minute nap before but I’ve always dismissed it: “How can someone feel rested after only 20 minutes?!”
- if I lie down and think for a few minutes, should I reset the timer to another 20 minutes?
- (rephrased) Is it 20 minutes from the moment I fall asleep? How am I supposed to do that?!
Implicit in the quote above is the idea that lying down and “thinking time” are an integral part of the nap. As long as you’re trying to fall asleep and not actively entertaining these thoughts: good job you’re doing it right! In that way, it’s exactly like meditation.
I was very skeptical of the 20-minute nap. But I’ve been trying this technique for the last 2 weeks and it worked every single time!
I set the timer and lie down. Usually, it takes me 4–5 minutes to wind down. And when the alarm goes off it feels like I just fell asleep. It feels like “huh… was I sleeping?”
Another common experience: I think I’m awake and wasting my precious 20 minutes but when the alarm goes off it doesn’t feel like 20 minutes … I just “time-warped”.