Nap Your Way to Success

Eleanor Schmalzl '20
(she/her/hers)
Staff Editor

Are you tired? Struggling to focus? Ready to reach for that next cup of coffee? With the semester starting, some of you may be feeling sleepy at just the thought of starting another round of classes. And while I’m sure you all kept a consistent, normal sleep schedule over the long break,1 you may still be searching for a way to stay refreshed in the chaos of your spring schedule. Well, rest easy, friends, because an afternoon nap may be the key to conquering anything that comes your way.

 Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

While American culture seems to frown upon the idea of an afternoon nap for adults, a siesta can produce huge benefits for hard-working law students.2 Some of the greats, including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Albert Einstein, committed time in the afternoon to recharge with a short nap despite their busy schedules.3 And the amount of time it takes to reap the benefits of the nap is minimal. While studies vary, some say even a five- to ten-minute snooze can improve your mood and productivity.4 Others agree that a twenty-minute nap is the ideal length to increase your energy throughout the day, while a ninety-minute midday sleep can produce long-term benefits in your health.5 Humans benefit most from a nap between 1 and 3 p.m., allowing your brain to store important information and clear clutter that you have in your head from the first part of your day.6

If additional energy, improved mood, and a clear mind don’t motivate you to set aside time for a relaxing afternoon ritual, then maybe money will. In October 2010, Spain had its first ever siesta competition and offered a money prize to the best napper based on nap position and PJ style with bonus points for snoring.7 Different variations of this competition have continued in Spain to revive the old tradition of an after-lunch nap, an important piece of their culture that is being washed away with the hustle-and-bustle of today’s fast-paced world. So, if you’re tight on cash, looking to visit Spain, or need to justify a nap for more than just health reasons, a nap competition may be exactly what you need. 

Now that I’ve appealed to the health junkies and the financially focused, I need to address the rest of the law-student population: the coffee lovers. If you need that morning brew to start your day and pick you up after a good lunch, start listening now. Coffee can be good for pushing you through your days, but can impact your ability to fall asleep at night, as most law students can attest to from personal experience. But when it comes to coffee and naps, you may be able to have your cake and eat it, too. If you can’t imagine nixing your afternoon joe, you may not have to. Drink your afternoon coffee right before your short nap and you may experience an additional power up. The effects of the caffeine don’t come until between fifteen and twenty minutes after consumption, meaning it won’t affect your ability to fall asleep.8 So, while you may have to compromise in most relationships, you and coffee can still live together in peaceful harmony if you add a nap to your list of ways to get through the busy day.

Your classmates may judge you for falling asleep in the study lounge or at your table in the library, but you may end up having the last laugh when you wake up more alert, creative, and prepared to take on the rest of the afternoon. So stop worrying about everyone else and quit fighting that urge to close your eyes—it may be exactly what you need. 

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mes5hf@virginia.edu

1 Read: stayed up until 3 a.m. and woke up at noon

2 “Hard-working” includes those with perfect attendance at FebClub parties

3 AKA your “I don’t have time for a nap” excuse may be invalid

4 http://thedinfographics.com/2012/07/31/napping-types-statistics-facts-and-history-infographics/

5 https://sleep.org/articles/napping-health-benefits/

6 Disclaimer: the author of this article is in no way responsible should your brain discard class lectures as “clutter”

7 I can’t make this stuff up: http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/10/15/spain.siesta.championship/index.html

8 https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping