Your Home Can Help You Recharge

Create a place at home for play — or a short, rejuvenating nap — and you may find a new source of energy

Feeling tired and overcommitted? It’s possible that a few new habits and changes around your house can help you fix that. Is there an idea in here you’d like to try?

1. Create inviting rest zones. Despite all the research proving that an afternoon nap is good for you, it’s still not seen as acceptable unless you work for yourself or have a progressive employer.

That’s a shame, because the benefits of catnaps are many. Humans are uncommon among animals in the way we tend to sleep in one big chunk. We can learn a lot from our cat and dog friends, who can be seen tearing through the house like wild beasts one minute and flat-out sleeping the next. Research shows that a quick afternoon nap at the right time can really help us recharge the batteries.

Winston Churchill is said to have coined the term power nap, and he claimed the clarity it brought him was necessary for wartime victory. “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures,” the late British prime minister said. “Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations.”

Other powerful figures known for their daytime sleeping include Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.

Of course, there’s a knack to napping. For one thing, it helps if the nap is kept short — no shorter than 10 minutes but not too long, either. More than 90 minutes could leave you feeling groggy. Professor Leon Lack of Flinders University in Australia conducted a study into daytime napping. He says it’s the length of sleep that’s crucial to our post-nap performance.

“Ten to 15 minutes of sleep seems to be the optimum period in terms of improving mental operations, performance, reaction times and subjective feelings of alertness,” he says. “And that improvement in performance and alertness seems to be maintained for up to two and sometimes three hours after the nap. Interestingly, the five-minute nap just didn’t produce the same amount of improvement, while longer naps of 25 to 30 minutes led to subjects being somewhat drowsy and less alert for up to an hour after the nap.”

The timing of the nap is also important. Lack suggests six to eight hours after normal waking, so if you get up at 7 a.m. your optimum nap time is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

If heading to bed for a nap is inconvenient or if you think you’ll oversleep, create beautiful places around the home that are conducive to a doze — a north-facing, sun-drenched window seat outfitted with cushions or throws, for example.<

2. Tech bans. We’ve all heard this one before, but it makes sense: If we’re staring at a screen before bed, our minds become overstimulated. Evidence shows that it’s not just kids who should lose the tech at least a couple of hours before bed.

Studies on the effects of bright tablets show that using laptops for up to five hours before bed affects the evening’s natural rise in melatonin (a hormone that makes us ready for sleep), according to Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation. Repeated exposure to a bright screen over five days can delay the body clock by 1½ hours, meaning you consistently want to go to bed later and sleep in longer. This can obviously be a problem when you need to get up for school or work.

Among the findings:

  • The bright light from device screens can cause increased alertness.
  • Activities on such devices can be stimulating and make us less ready to sleep.
  • People can become absorbed and continue using technology beyond their usual bedtime.

3. Creative colors. Set the appropriate mood for the relevant areas of your home. If you intend to sleep or relax somewhere, use natural or soft palettes and soft lighting, and induce sleep and relaxation with cozy rugs and throws.

Wake yourself up in other parts of the house with lively colors. Or if strong colors aren’t to your taste, try stark contrasts of black and white.

4. Space for fun. As we run around with our serious pursuits of shopping, working and staying connected to the 24-hour news cycle, are we sometimes forgetting to have fun?

We don’t need a climbing wall on the side of the house, of course, but are there other pursuits you love that would inject some energy into your life — playing a board game, dancing, singing or just playing soccer with your kids in the backyard, perhaps?

We all know that feeling — we really can’t be bothered to get off the sofa and exercise. Yet when we do, we feel so much better for it.

Spending time in the outdoors and getting some vitamin D also helps to invigorate us, so try taking advantage of any outdoor areas you have by making them as enticing as possible, luring you into the fresh air.

5. Home-based hobbies. It might sound counterintuitive: Get more energy by doing more. Aren’t we just making ourselves more busy? But finding an activity we enjoy and that can totally absorb our minds — whether it can be done at home or requires going out — will ultimately wake us up.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, such as painting, gardening or sewing, that you can set up a space for at home? Or is there something you want to get involved in outside the home, such as pottery classes, joining a book club or learning Spanish? If it’s social, it might be even more beneficial. Learning a new skill, whatever it may be, can reinvigorate us.

6. Meditation space. The reported benefits of meditation are quite similar to those of the power nap. A regular meditation practice is said to lower the heart rate, improve memory, increase cognitive function and, of course, give us more energy.

7. Encouraging kids to help. If the budget doesn’t run to outside housekeeping help and you have little ones at home, start training them to share in the chores. Start with their own bedrooms; get them picking up after themselves and tidying their rooms. As they get older, get them to help in other areas of the home — cleaning bathrooms, cooking meals, tidying up shared areas. They get experience that will benefit them for life and you get much-needed help. And though it might be hard work at first to motivate them (maybe offer to up their pocket money), it will soon pay off.

8. Meal planning. If you think that eating badly is making you tired, take stock of your diet. Choose healthy takeout food, take the time to make meals at home and make time to eat dinner at the table rather than in front of the television or computer. Allow a couple of hours before bed without eating to help you sleep better.

This article was originally published at Houzz.

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