How to Get to Sleep After a Nap (Doctor’s 7 Tips)

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This article was written by Dr. Sony Sherpa – a qualified and practicing medical doctor – to ensure the content is medically accurate.

Napping during the day can help you recharge but it can also make it harder to get to sleep at night.

For example, when I used to work very early shifts, I would nap in the early afternoon because I was so tired and then I’d find it hard to get to sleep later on.

So why is it so difficult to get to sleep at night after napping during the day?

It can be difficult to sleep at night after napping in the day because entering non-rapid eye movement (NREM sleep) during a nap prolongs the time it takes to feel sleepy again once you have woken up.

So how can you get to sleep after a nap?

The most effective ways to get to sleep after a nap include taking a natural sleep aid like hot chocolate, melatonin, kiwi fruit, or chamomile tea – meditating and listening to white noise can help. Napping before 2 pm is the best way to stop the nap interfering with sleep.

In the rest of this article, I have used my professional knowledge as a medical doctor to give you 7 effective ways to sleep better after a nap – some are preemptive strategies.

However, this article is no substitute for the advice of your own doctor.

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Why is it Hard to Sleep After a Nap?

It can be hard to sleep after a nap because the nap prolongs sleep drive – the amount of time it takes to feel sleepy again.

The sleep cycle of a person includes two main types of sleep patterns: slow-activity non-rapid eye movement (NREM sleep) and rapid eye movement (REM sleep).

In the early phases of your sleep, there are two light stages of NREM sleep – during which your body and brain activity begins to decrease.

At the third stage of NREM, you are in deep sleep, and this is often when you will find yourself dreaming.

Waking up during this stage will often leave you confused and in a bad mood.

The final stage of the sleep cycle is REM sleep.

During REM sleep, your brain activity and eye movement progress towards a level of wakefulness.

Throughout the night, as more time passes and more sleep cycles are completed, the duration of the REM sleep increases over the duration of NREM.

My patients often mention difficulty sleeping if they napped during the day – after 2 pm to 3 pm – but little to no problem if they napped earlier in the day.

This is because as the day passes and the body gets more and more tired, sleep drive increases.

But by napping, you prolong the amount of time that it takes to feel sleepy again.

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7 Ways to Get to Sleep After a Nap

Below are 7 ways that can help you sleep better at night after napping during the day:

1: Listen to a Sleep Meditation to Reduce Stress

Guided Sleep Meditation, Fall Asleep In Minutes Spoken Sleep Meditation With Water Sound for Sleep

If you have napped during the day, then you may be worried about not being able to sleep at night.

Because your nap has already prolonged the amount of time that it will take to feel sleepy again, any additional stress will likely overstimulate you and make this worse [1].

Try listening to the guided sleep meditation above to help reduce stress and relax you into sleep.

Try these 7 ways to sleep better by drinking hot chocolate.

2: Try a Natural Sleep Aid

A natural sleep aid can help you to get to sleep at night after a nap without having to rely on using habit-forming sleep medications that may worsen the quality of your sleep.

Some natural sleep aids that you can try include:

3: Nap Before 2pm

The most effective way to prevent a nap from stopping you from getting to sleep at night is to nap no later than 2 pm because the closer you nap to bedtime, the longer it will take for you to feel sleepy again.

Whilst avoiding naps all together is the best solution, remember the earlier that you nap in the day the better if you cannot avoid napping at all.

Try these 10 ways to reduce tiredness after going to bed late.

4: Maintain Proper Sleep Hygiene to Get Good Quality Sleep

Napping is often the consequence of not sleeping properly the night before.

If my patients are having trouble falling asleep at night, they often end up taking a nap during the day which then makes it harder to fall asleep at night again.

To prevent this from happening, I tell my patients to maintain proper sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene is the practice of following a set of habits that can help you to get to sleep [2].

The most effective sleep hygiene habits that you can follow are:

  • Keep the room at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius).
  • Do not eat a meal sooner than 2 hours before bed.
  • Avoid screens in the last hour before bed.

5: Use a Sleep Diary or Tracker to Identify Disrupting Factors

A sleep diary can help you to identify factors that may be disrupting your sleep and manage them more effectively.

When my patients complain of excessive napping, I always recommend that they start logging their sleeping habits and daily physical activity in a sleep journal.

This can help them realize on their own what the cause of their excessive napping is.

A sleep diary is used to record the time that you go to sleep, what you did before bed, how long it took you to get to sleep, if you woke up, if you napped that day, and the time you woke up.

You can also use a sleep tracker or app to monitor the duration and quality of your sleep.

A sleep diary can also be used to record information about any medications you may have taken during that day, if you smoked, or consumed alcohol or caffeinated drinks at any point of the day.

You can also note down the level of your physical activity during the day, as it can also have an impact on the quality and duration of your sleep. 

This sleep diary gives your doctor a reliable account of your sleep over the last couple of weeks so that an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan can be made [3].

Often the culprit turns out to be caffeine intake later in the day – which causes insomnia at night and excessive naps the next day.

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6: Avoid Caffeine After Your Nap

If you drink caffeine after your nap then this will likely increase the amount of time that it takes for you to get to sleep at night because it will overstimulate you.

I tell my patients that caffeine in the morning may help to increase their alertness but caffeine after midday – especially if they have taken a nap – can make it very difficult to get to sleep at their normal time at night.

Try these 15 ways to sleep better after drinking coffee too late.

7: Try a White Noise Machine to Block Out Noise

NOISE BLOCKER Brown Noise 10 Hours for Sleep, Study, Tinnitus, Insomnia

A white noise machine helps reduce outside noises which make it more difficult for you to fall asleep after a late nap. 

If you don’t want to buy a white noise machine then you can put your earphones in and listen to the brown noise video above – it’s a favorite of mine that I used to block out noise and get to sleep quickly.

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Conclusion: Avoid Napping Too Late

The most effective way to stop naps affecting your sleep at night is to either avoid them or nap no later than 2 pm to prevent an increase in time that it takes for you to feel sleepy.

If you have napped too late and can’t get to sleep then the best thing to do is to use meditation to relax and try a natural sleep aid like kiwi fruit, chamomile tea, or melatonin.

Avoid sleep medications as they can be addictive and may make your sleep quality worse.

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Sources and References

[1] Strygin, K N. Rossiiskii fiziologicheskii zhurnal imeni I.M. Sechenova vol. 97,4 (2011): 422-32.

[2] Hale, Deborah, and Katherine Marshall. “Sleep and Sleep Hygiene.” Home healthcare now vol. 37,4 (2019): 227. doi:10.1097/NHH.0000000000000803

[3] Krystal, Andrew D, and Jack D Edinger. “Measuring sleep quality.” Sleep medicine vol. 9 Suppl 1 (2008): S10-7. doi:10.1016/S1389-9457(08)70011-X

Medical Disclaimer

No part of this website offers medical advice – always consult with a medical professional if you are having trouble sleeping for the best guidance.

Image Attribution and Licensing

Main image: ‘Young beautiful woman napping on the bed’ by stokkete (used with permission and commercially licensed through Envato Elements).