Have you ever been so tired that you blink your eyes and find yourself opening them 20 minutes later, just to realize that you had unknowingly drifted off to sleep? But then you also notice that you now feel more energetic, alert and motivated than you did before you went to sleep? Well that, my friend, is because of what we call the Power Nap!
Now, napping is one of my favorite things to talk about because, as you know, I LOVE sleep (duh!). What I love about napping is that you can do it for shorter periods during the day and still get some of those same restorative benefits that you get after a whole night of sleep.
Now, don’t get me wrong there is NO substitute for a full night’s sleep, however, a good nap is a way to work off some of that sleep debt you may have accumulated by not getting enough sleep at night. A nap is also a natural pick me up during the day.
If you’re interested in learning how to effectively and strategically use power naps to improve your mental and physical functioning throughout the day, continue reading below…
What is a power nap?
Power nap is a term used pretty often, but many people are not sure exactly what it means or how to get the most out of it.
A power nap is a period of sleep during the day that helps you to wake up feeling more refreshed and mentally recharged.
Seems pretty simple right? Well, it is! Unfortunately, where most people go wrong is by sleeping for too short or too long a period of time to get the maximum benefits from a power nap.
I know you all are thinking “Wait, sleep is good for me, so the longer the better right?” Well the answer is yes and no.
Sleep is definitely good for you and getting an adequate amount of sleep at night is great and even during the day if your goal is just to catch up on sleep. But if your goal is sleep efficiently and in a manner that will allow you to be more energized and productive when you wake up, longer is not better. Let me explain…
You see, there are 5 different stages of sleep that you cycle through over periods of time. Putting it in general terms, there are stages of sleep that are “lighter” which are the earlier stages (stages 1 and 2) and stages that are “deeper” stages 3 to 5.
When attempting to capture the magic of a power nap, it’s important that you wake up before you go into the stages of deeper sleep. That is because slipping into those stages will make it much more difficult for you to wake up and can actually leave you feeling more groggy and tired than you did before you went to sleep.
Because of this, the ideal length of a power nap is 10-20 minutes. During this time, you should still be in the lighter stages of sleep so you won’t wake up with that drunk feeling. Also, your brain still has time to recharge so that you wake up with all of the beautiful benefits of a power nap… And what are those benefits you ask? Well let’s get into it.
Benefits of a Power Nap
1. Power naps have been shown to boost your mental alertness
2. Improve your mood and creativity
3. Can help lower stress and, when done regularly, can improve overall long term health
4. Improve your ability to learn
5. Give you better motor skills and task performance
As you can see, the benefits of a power nap are numerous! They are perfect to help you beat that midday slump and get your creative juices flowing at work as well as improving your stamina when it comes to studying or working on a project or really any other task that requires that extra bit of
Not quite convinced yet? Don’t just take it from me. There are many top companies including Google, Uber, and Zappos who understand the power of a power nap not only on the individual employee but also the productivity of the company as a whole.
All of these companies have incorporated “napping rooms” into their offices and actually encourage employee napping. Gives a different meaning to sleeping on the job huh?
Now you might be thinking “Can’t I just drink a cup of coffee?”. Well yes, you can, and while coffee will likely help with your alertness, you will not get all of the other benefits listed above. You may also have to deal with the crash that can come later or the jittery effects that continue even through bedtime.
So now that we’ve covered the best length of a power nap, let’s talk about the best time to take one.
Best Time to Take a Power Nap
My favorite part about power naps is that they are so short, it’s easy to squeeze them into even the busiest schedules. As we know, everyone is unique and have differences in their peak energy levels as well as their dips throughout the day. So my advice
Now, with that being said, the vast majority of people hit their midday slump in the mid-afternoon somewhere between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. This seems to be a great time to catch some quick ZZZs and recover from that midday decline in energy.
But again, this may not be an optimal time for your day and what your goals are for that day. Just try not to take your nap too close to bedtime (within 2 to 3 hours) as the alertness that is produced afterwards may interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
Now, the key to the power nap is that it’s efficient and effective. So if it takes you longer to fall asleep than you spend actually sleeping, you lose some of that efficiency.
One way to help you fall asleep quickly is by creating a pro-napping environment whether you’re at home or in the office.
Creating a Good Nap Environment
1. Find a dark, and quiet place to lay your head down. It doesn’t have to be a bed but just somewhere that you can be comfortable
2. If you are unable to escape lighting or noise, use an eye mask or ear plugs/headphones to drown out the outside environment
3. Try some of those quick relaxation/meditation tips that we discussed in Natural Sleep Remedies: Your Solution to Helping You Fall Asleep Naturally to quiet down your mind and drift off into sleep quicker
4. Remember to set an alarm! The easiest way to ensure that you don’t go past that golden period of 10-20 minutes is by setting an alarm so that you can set it and forget it.
Pro tip: There is research that suggests the way to get the MOST out of a power nap is to actually go to sleep directly after drinking a cup of coffee. Now this may sound counterintuitive but bear with me for a second. The effects of coffee don’t kick in until about 20 minutes after you drink it. So by going to sleep right after drinking it, the benefits of the power nap along with the benefits of a cup of coffee should work together to give you the optimal level of alertness.
Now you have the tools to be a pro power napper and receive all the many benefits that come along with it. Happy Napping!