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Experts reveal why you should nap outdoors this summer

sleeping outdoors

1 in 5 Brits are reported* to enjoy a nap every day, and it’s no surprise when they lift your mood, make you more alert, and combat daytime fatigue. However, with the UK set to face a 26C heatwave* at the end of June, this soar in temperature will lead to an uncomfortable slumber. 

As a result, many nappers may take it outdoors to avoid overheating. Sleeping outdoors is the norm for Scandinavians and is a great way to be at one with nature, but will it help aid better sleep?

Leading paving retailer Paving Superstore, spoke exclusively to Dave Gibson, sleep expert and founder of The Sleep Site, on whether you should be opting for a nap outdoors this summer as well as its benefits: 

Fresh air can aid in deeper relaxation

Dave Gibson told Paving Superstore, “Many of us struggle to sleep in humid summer evenings, and this is because along with nighttime darkness, one of the main cues for sleep is a decrease in our internal body temperature. This drop helps initiate sleep, however, when it’s too hot, our core body temperature can’t fall by the necessary 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, making it difficult to fall asleep. So, if you’re struggling to sleep indoors in stuffy, humid conditions, you might find it easier to fall asleep outside in the cooling evening air. Fresh air can help promote deeper relaxation and help restore you mentally and physically. Furthermore, being in nature can reduce stress levels and improve mood, and in turn, can improve your sleep quality.”

“Just keep in mind, that sleeping in a new environment can take some adjustment due to the ‘first night effect’*. This is where part of the brain stays slightly alert, which might make it harder to fall asleep initially, but it usually wears out after the second time.”

Now you know the benefits of sleeping outdoors, but when is the best time to take your outdoor nap? Dave discusses the ‘optimal’ time of day to sleep to help you feel rejuvenated, even on a warm summer’s day.

It’s best to take your outdoor nap just after lunch

“The optimal time of day to nap is during the Siesta period just after lunch when our circadian rhythm is naturally set to catch up on any missed sleep from the night before. It’s also okay to have a power nap in the morning as a short power nap of 20-30 minutes can help increase mental alertness, improve mood, and boost short-term energy levels. 

sleeping outdoors

“To ensure you sleep for the right amount of time, make sure you set your alarm before drifting off to sleep or even drink a cup of coffee before you nap, as it takes around 20 minutes for caffeine to enter your system, which should wake you up.”

“However, naps, and especially full cycle naps should be avoided from the late afternoon onwards and close to bedtime, as they will prevent you from falling asleep at your usual bedtime by reducing your sleep drive and need for sleep. Always remember though to remain mindful of using naps to compensate for reduced night-time sleep and to consult a healthcare provider if you are struggling to sleep at night.”

With that in mind, Georgina Read, Director at Paving Superstore has shared some tips on how to ease into your garden nap blissfully and make it as comfortable as possible:

How to sleep outdoors in four simple steps

Make sure your chosen location in the garden has shade, so you don’t overheat

“Choosing the right location to have your nap is key to aiding a blissful night’s sleep. If you centre yourself in the sun, you could be at risk of sunburn, so for your safety, it’s best to locate yourself in a part of your outdoor area that has shade. If you decide you want to nap during the day, make sure you put on your sunscreen beforehand to protect you against sun exposure as well as insect repellent to ward off bugs while you nap. The one thing about naps is that you don’t know when they are going to happen so ensuring you are protected is essential!”

“If you have trees in your garden, take advantage of the shade they provide, however, if you are someone who doesn’t have a lot of shady areas, consider investing in a parasol or a canopy. As well as keeping you shaded it can also protect you from rainfall if it were to occur as we know the weather in the UK can be unpredictable.”

Add decorative accents to your space to add a touch of comfort 

“If you’re looking to catch some good zzz’s you need to make your napping area as comfortable as possible, as in the long term this can cause problems like sleep anxiety if the feeling of discomfort persists.”

“To create a comfy napping spot, add some cushions and a lightweight throw to your lounger/chair for a better napping experience. If possible, recline your chair to a 30 to 60-degree angle*, as doing this will help aid a more comfortable sleep.”

“If you want to elevate your napping experience further, consider purchasing a footrest, as this can help you feel more elevated as you sleep and prevent your legs from dangling uncomfortably.”

Choose a spot in your garden that has a flat surface 

“The one thing you don’t want is the possibility of falling off your chair while you’re in deep slumber because you’re on uneven ground, so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing your garden nap spot.”

“If you have a patio, I would suggest choosing this as a spot, as patios provide a much more solid foundation than grass. However, if you are someone who doesn’t have one, make sure you take time to test different spots around your garden to find one that is the most suitable.”

Set the mood and ease into your nap by reading or listening to white noise

“Whether you enjoy jotting down your thoughts on paper or keeping your mind engaged by reading compelling stories, having a book beside you encourages you to sit back and unwind and let your mind run freely. By taking some time out from the wider world, and indulging in a good book, you will naturally feel calmer, which should help improve sleep quality.”

“Listening to white noise is also another great way to help you ease into your nap. Because white noise has all the frequencies within the audible sound spectrum, it helps mask out background noise and create a tranquil sleep environment, allowing you to fall into a peaceful slumber.”

Dave Gibson adds: “To ensure a good night’s sleep outside, you should also consider how to combat any light that might prevent you from falling or staying asleep. An eye mask is a great way to block light and create a dark environment to help you drift into your sleep much quicker.” 

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