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Naps, Glorious Naps

10/04/2017, 6:00am CDT
By Sam Callan, USA Fencing Senior Manager of Coaching Education

Now that we’ve discussed sleep, let’s talk about naps!

Naps have a stigma in some circles as something only lazy people do. First, you should consider avoiding these anti-nap people or at least do not listen to them on this subject! Naps may help you be more productive with increased alertness later in the day. While a nap is not a substitute for a good night’s sleep, a nap can be beneficial if you are not getting good quality sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation lists three categories of naps: planned, emergency and habitual. Planned naps are those that you take before you are sleepy and when you might know you are going to be up later than usual. Emergency naps occur when you suddenly find yourself fatigued and cannot continue what you were doing, such as becoming drowsy while driving. Habitual napping is something that a person does as part of a daily routine such as when you were a kid and your parents made you take a nap.

Realistically, naps are not an option at work or during school (USA Fencing does not recommend napping during math class). During the school year, a nap between school and fencing practice might help you feel refreshed and ward of sluggishness. When school is on break, you could include a nap around fencing practice/lessons. If you take a morning class/lesson, like on a weekend, then a nap after might be useful. There is some data showing that a nap following learning new skills or information can aid in retention.

Let’s say you can get in a nap on that odd day or on the weekend day; Yann Le Meur offers the following tips for successful napping:

  • Find a place to nap that is free of distractions, such as devices and noise. If noise is unavoidable, use headphones with relaxing music or white noise. Wear a mask to provide darkness.
  • Set an alarm for 15-30 minutes. Oversleeping from the nap can lead to a sluggish feeling (see below). One recommendation is to have caffeine right before the nap to eliminate listlessness and benefit from the effects of the caffeine when you awake, although that contradicts advice about avoiding caffeine after lunch to avoid sleep issues at night.
  • Follow the nap with some physical activity (even as little as a few pushups), wash your face and expose yourself to light in order to shake off any sluggishness.

Naps are not all rainbows and unicorns though. The National Sleep Foundation lists some potential negative effects of naps:

  • A nap that lasts too long can lead to sluggishness or disorientation from waking up during the deep sleep cycle; this period of disorientation can last up to 30 minutes and could be an issue if you need to work or perform a task during that time.
  • A nap can disrupt sleep patterns if it is too long or taken too later in the day.

During the long days at a fencing competition, a nap might be just what you need, but keep in mind the timing of the nap relative to your competition. It would not serve you well to take a long nap and be sluggish for a bout and lose 5-0 before you were even awake again. If a nap isn’t realistic for you at a competition, finding a quiet spot or using noise cancelling headphones and just closing your eyes for a short period of time might be enough of a refresher. This situation also might call for using caffeine as described above to increase your alertness following the nap.

If you are going to experiment with naps during competition, please work out your napping routine in training so that you know how long you can nap before sluggishness sets in or how short a nap can be and still feel useful. A cardinal rule in athletics is not try something for the first time at a competition. So work on your napping during training.

So, when you feel a nap is needed, USA Fencing gives you permission to take one!

Tag(s): Blog