The goals of napping are:
- quicken recovery
- catch up on sleep
When you workout, you are on the bike, or lifting weights, or running >> you are stressing your body. In between workouts, you body responds to the stress by changing your heart, your lungs, your muscles and everything that was exercised during the workout so that your body is better prepared for that stress in the future. If you rest properly, then your body comes back for the next workout stronger than before. If you do not rest properly in between workouts, then you will be slower and weaker in your next workout.
An additional benifit is napping within a couple hours of an activity helps you to learn that activity in less time than without a follow-up nap.
Trimming bushes in your yard is a good analogy: If you trim the bushes ( working out ) every day, the bushes will get smaller and smaller and may die - because you are not allowing them the time they need to fill out after a trimming. If you do allow them the water and time ( rest ) to recover, then the bushes will fill out and look better than before you trimmed them.
Other sleep related causes of fatigue:
- you do not get sleep enough, so you have a significant sleep debt
- you work odd or irregular work hours
- emotional problems
- the spouse has been a jerk lately
- injury or illness
- you are over trained
- you did something like drink coffee within 4 hours of trying to sleep
So, what if you do not have the time or the resources to rest properly in between workouts?
is there a way to rest more efficiently?
Yes: take a GOOD nap immediately after your ride
Done right, this quick nap dramatically reduces recovery time
Napping is a skill that is learned. The following are the things that make me an efficient napper. In general, you will be able to apply what I do, to what you need to do to also be a good napper.
Taking a 30 minute "power nap" right after a ride is something I do not do naturally. So I have taught myself how to nap and to make napping easier to do, I follow a sequence of events that are the cues to my body: "It is time to nap RIGHT NOW"
The Napping Environment:
- Nap in a comfortable bed
- the room is warm, dark and quiet
- eat before you nap, but avoid things that interfere with sleep: caffeine, alcohol, heavy foods, foods that disagree with you
- go to the bathroom and shower before napping
- Listening to quiet music may help you to get to sleep sooner - music keeps me awake, so I use a fan to make "white noise"
- When you lie down, think the words: "It is time to nap", then relax and don't think
- the best time for napping is from about 1 to 5 p.m. It is not easy to do, but you can train yourself to nap in the morning inbetween Tuesday mornings intervals and going to work
- Go to bed at at the same time each night
The Napping Process:
I nap after Tuesday and Thursday morning's intervals and before I go to work. Obviously I would not normally nap at 6:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I need those naps or I will be very tired at work.
When I first tried napping, I would lay in bed wide awake - which is bad because I was teaching myself how to not sleep, and I was learning to associate my bed with "I cannot sleep here"
So I decided to do what I do to get ready for a race - have a routine that tells me: "It is time to do this"
My nap routine is:
- the ride has finished and I come in the house
- eat breakfast
- bathroom and shower
- go into the bedroom and close the curtains and turn the fan on to "low"
- set the alarm to 30 minutes into the future
- get in bed and while lying on my left side, say the words "It is time to nap"
- within 60 seconds of #7, I roll over onto my right side - I am napping within the next minute
- If I cannot get to sleep within 5 minutes, then I get up and go to work
- the alarm wakes me up
- immediately get out of bed and dress for work
- go to work
Notice that my routine has these characteristics. It:
- is a very specific sequence of events
- physically prepares me to nap
- has visual, sound and verbal cues that, with those cues, makes napping a habit
- has an exit plan in case I cannot fall asleep
- removes me from the "it's time to nap" cues when I finish napping
Initially, I needed to nap for 45 to 90 minutes, because (1) it took a while to get to sleep, and (2) I kept waking up. Spending so much time napping was an inefficient use of time. And because I was not good at napping, I was finishing the nap still a little tired.
Now, I am out cold in less than 2 minutes and I wake up refreshed after only 30 minutes. It took about a month to teach myself how to nap well. Part of being a good napper is, during step 8 above, you need to sort of throw a switch in your head and then it's lights out. I do not know how to describe it other than to say that for a couple seconds it feels like when you were a child and you put your tongue on a 9 volt battery.
You will wake up with what the Doctors call "Sleep Inertia" - you are a little sleepy when you wake up.
The point is: Wake up and get going!
When to bail out of a Nap:
Remember: The sequence of steps to get to sleep are learned
- If you can't sleep, but you stay in bed and keep trying to sleep, then you are teaching yourself how to NOT sleep. Get up and leave your sleeping area. If you have time to try again in 15 minutes, then try once more.
- I do not have that extra time, so if I cannot get to sleep quickly ( within 5 minutes ), then the opportunity to nap is gone for that day, and so I get up and go.
When will napping cause more fatigue?
- Napping during the day makes it more difficult for you to sleep at night,
- The length of your nap means you wake up at the wrong time in a sleep cycle