Aug. 30, 2014 at 9:45 AM ET
On those days when your to-do list is a mile long and there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done, a nap is probably the last thing on your mind.
However, according to Ben Greenfield, author of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, and Life, naps may actually benefit your productivity levels by increasing alertness, creativity, recall, and memory in the second half of your day. A well-timed nap (directly after lunch rather than in the late afternoon or evening) can also help you recover after a sleep-deprived night.
Here's some expert advice on how to get the most out of your early-afternoon siesta:
Don't use your alarm clock unless you have to. If you take the time to develop healthy napping habits, your body will naturally wake up in 20 to 60 minutes. Plus, jolting awake at the sound of your alarm gives you an immediate and unnatural injection of stressful adrenaline and cortisol.
Time your naps. Try to nap seven to eight hours after you wake up, when, in theory, you would be the least alert.
Don't drink coffee before your nap. Even having tiny amounts of caffeine in your system messes with your sleep quality. If you're going to take the time to nap, you might as well get the most out of it, which means avoiding caffeine!
Avoid stress before napping. Try to schedule low-stress activities directly before your nap. That way, you'll be able to sleep more soundly.
Don't exercise immediately before napping. Although naps help with exercise recovery, Greenfield advises finishes your workout at least 45 minutes before the start of your nap to get the best results.
Eat before your nap. If you're hungry when you go down for a nap, odds are you are not going to sleep very well, so try napping right after lunch.
Stick to a schedule. If possible, nap at the same time every day. That way, your body will become accustomed to a routine.
Don't use alcohol or sedatives to initiate a nap. If you do, you'll just wake feeling sluggish and fatigued rather than rested and prepared to take on the rest of the day.