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How to Nap Like a Champ

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Your kids don’t have to be the only pro nappers in the family.

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You know the feeling. It's 2:30 p.m. and that post-lunch fatigue is starting to wash over you. It makes you wish you were in preschool again, with scheduled naptime.

Why not take an afternoon cat nap? Sometimes a short snooze is all you need to recharge your batteries and conquer the rest of your to-dos. But it's important to nap the right way (yep, there's a wrong way). Otherwise, you may end up feeling more exhausted, not less. Steal these napping secrets:

Keep it short. A 20-minute nap is long enough to leave you feeling refreshed and alert, but not so long that you'll wake up feeling groggy. Twenty minutes ensures that you stay in the lightest stage of non-REM sleep, which makes it easier to wake up. If you nap for, say, an hour and wake up in the middle of a deep stage of sleep, you're likely to feel tired and have a foggy brain. (One caveat: A 90-minute nap works because it allows you to get through a complete sleep cycle, but snoozing for that long in the middle of the day isn't always doable.) Set a timer on your phone before you nod off. 

Stay cool. Set the room temperature at 60 to 67 degrees for an optimal siesta. Your body temperature cools to initiate sleep, so keeping the room on the chillier side makes it easier to drift off.  

Drown out distractions. Don't let bright lights and loud noises keep you from dozing. Buy a sleep mask for instant darkness and use earplugs to block out any car horns, barking dogs, or chitchat. If you're in an office or a bedroom, pull any shades or curtains closed and shut your door. Oh, and put your phone on silent (except for your alarm, of course).

Get as comfortable as you can. If you're napping in a place that's not your bed, make the space feel like home. If you're on a bus, train, or subway, for example, use an inflatable pillow so you don't strain your neck. If you can take your shoes off, go for it. You can even spray a calming scent, such as lavender, in the air. 

Relax your mind and body. To help yourself calm down from the stress of a stimulating day, try progressive muscle relaxation. Work your way down your body, tensing and then relaxing one part at a time, from your neck and shoulders all the way down to your toes. Then take 10 deep, slow breaths—in through your nose and out through your mouth—and focus your thoughts on your breath as a mini meditation. When you're loose, rather than tense, it's easier to get your zzz's.