5 Clever Tips for Napping in Public (Without Looking Like a Weirdo)

We’ve all been there. Sitting on the subway or in a waiting room or at an airport terminal – maybe staring out the window or watching a muted TV. You’re exhausted and your eyelids feel heavy and without knowing, you fall asleep. Well, you don’t know until you wake up – hopefully not with your head on a stranger’s shoulder, drool dripping down your chin.

Want to make sure this kind of minor public humiliation is never a part of your history (or isn’t ever again)? Here’s a simple piece of advice: admit you’re tired, you little sleepy-head. Admit it, own it, and take advantage of the moments when you can squeeze in a power nap – even if you’re in public. It’s nothing like the sweet slumber you get in your own bed, but it’s still sleep. And it’s overwhelmingly important to your health and happiness.

Follow these 5 clever tips for napping in public and before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly catching up on all the overnight shut-eye you’ve been sacrificing.

#1 Always pack your props.

You never know when or where you might be able to squeeze in some snooze time, so make sure you’re always equipped to pounce on the opportunity for a catnap. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sunglasses – Everyone knows darkness is optimal for good sleep, and sunglasses can create a darker environment wherever you go. An eye mask would be best for fostering deep sleep, but sunglasses are a superior disguise if you don’t want to scream to the world “I AM SLEEPING!”
  • Headphones – Blocking out disruptive noises is vital for napping. Crank up some sleep-inducing tunes or some type of white noise app to help create the illusion that you’re alone. An added bonus of headphones is that they discourage others from trying to talk to you (i.e. waking you from your nap). Combined with sunglasses, you could sleep for hours and passersby would assume your listless body means you’re deeply engaged in whatever you’re listening to – not sleeping.
  • A Timer – If you’re worried about missing your bus stop or your flight or your next meeting, you’re not going to nap as well. Set up something that alerts you through sound using your headphones or through gentle vibrations using an alarm watch. And set it early enough that you have some time to readjust to being awake before having to run off to whatever’s next.
  • Something Cozy – Covering yourself with a blanket (combined with everything else) will be a dead giveaway you’re snoozing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any creature comforts at all. A large scarf can keep your core warm or roll up into a makeshift pillow. Same goes for a hoodie. Need happy feet for good sleep? Pack some good travel slippers or lounging shoes and swap out your fancy footwear when it’s time to relax.  
  • Coffee – A canned coffee or espresso is optional, but recommended. Why? It takes 20-30 minutes for caffeine to kick in, so if a power nap is what’s in store, chug back some Joe just before going to sleep and it’ll give you an added spike in energy just as you’re waking up.
  • Laptop – Your computer is another optional prop, but it can be really useful in some circumstances. For example, if you’re at a busy coffee shop, positioned just the right way with your back to a corner, your open laptop implies you’re doing something. Order your coffee and kick it back. Put on your headphones and sunglasses, open your laptop, strategically relax, and people will assume you’re an engaged eccentric – not a napper.

#2 Dress as comfy as you can.

You won’t always have the liberty of dressing in stretchy sweats as you venture out into the world, but if you know you’re going to be squeezing in a nap, dress as comfy as you can. For example, if you have a 30-minute subway commute to work each day, you can do almost everything you need to bathe and prep at home, just don’t get officially dressed right away. Pack your work clothes, but dress to squeeze in some extra zzzz’s.

#3 Find the ideal nest.

First things first – consider safety first. The darkest corner at the airport terminal might look the most inviting but if you’re alone, it might also leave you the most vulnerable. Even though our instinct is to sleep somewhere isolated, public sleeping is best done somewhere very public. Choose a spot near staff (without being so close that you’re getting in the way or coming off like a creep). It goes without saying, but we’ll still say it: if the setting permits, choose a window or wall seat. You’ll be grateful to have something to lean on (not a stranger) when your muscles go limp.

#4 Keep your belongings close.

If you’re worried about your bag or luggage being stolen while you’re visiting the Land of Nod, you won’t sleep as well. You can cover small items with your arms in your lap. Larger items can be squished between you and a wall. If you have a duffle or something with a large handle, you can place it on the floor and put your foot through the handle (all the way through to the floor). A full body security system.

#5 Be prepared for re-entering real time.

Unlike our quiet bedrooms, napping in public means the world is very actively happening all around you. It can be a shock to the system if you’ve just been experiencing deep sleep, so have a wake-up plan to make the transition more pleasant. Have wipes on hand for dabbing away any drool, makeup for touching up your face, products with invigorating scents, another can of espresso, whatever sounds good to you.

Now, go forth and get that sleep! Practice makes a perfect public napping pro!

Have any other tips for napping in public? Share them in the comments below. We always love hearing from you!