There are numerous reasons why people take power naps. Some people come from cultures where taking an afternoon nap is commonplace, while others may find that a midday nap helps them feel less stressed. However, hectic work schedules often prevent individuals from taking extended daytime breaks to rest.
Consequently, many individuals became increasingly interested in the concept of power napping.
What is a Power Nap?
A power nap refers to a short nap that aims to complement regular sleep and provide the sleeper with a quick burst of alertness and energy. The ultimate objective of taking a power nap is to maximize the benefits of a brief period of rest on a busy day. Nevertheless, unlike longer naps, a power nap is less disruptive to an individual’s work schedule and may be more effective in enhancing work performance after the nap.
As a matter of fact, midday napping is a socially accepted practice in several countries, including Spain, China, Italy, and Japan. However, in the United Kingdom, it may still be viewed as a sign of idleness. Thus, researchers are attempting to challenge this negative perception of power napping, as a quick nap during the workday can improve attentiveness and possibly mitigate the negative impacts of sleep deprivation on work performance.
The Benefits of Having a Power Nap
Put simply, power napping provides both short-term and long-term benefits, including the following:
Increased Energy Levels
A short nap can help combat fatigue and increase energy levels, enabling individuals to focus better and improve productivity.
Even a brief period of sleep can enhance memory and learning skills. During the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage two, sleep spindles are generated, which help consolidate memories and enhance cognitive performance.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Power napping can reduce stress and eliminate fatigue, thereby promoting heart health. In addition, recent research indicates that napping once or twice a week may decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Taking a midday nap can also boost immunity. In fact, a 2015 study conducted at Oxford University found that power napping can reverse some of the negative effects on the immune system caused by sleep deprivation at night.
Practical Tips and Advice on How to Power Nap Effectively
Set a Proper Nap Duration
The effectiveness of a power nap largely depends on its duration and the avoidance of sleep inertia. In essence, a successful power nap involves transitioning from NREM stage one to NREM stage two and awakening before entering stage three of the NREM process. However, if an individual has not slept the previous night enough, they may quickly enter deep sleep during a power nap.
NREM stage one, which lasts five to ten minutes, is a period of transition between wakefulness and sleep. On the other hand, during NREM stage two, which lasts about 20 minutes, the body temperature drops, the heart rate slows down, and sleep spindles are generated in the brain. Given that sleep spindles play a crucial role in memory processing and consolidation. Individuals could try to take advantage of that by setting their alarm for 15 to 20 minutes.
Alternatively, if an individual has enough time to complete a full sleep cycle, they should set their alarm for 90 minutes to enhance cognitive performance and creativity. To avoid disrupting the sleep cycle, it is recommended to use a phone alarm or proper alarm clock. Completing a full sleep cycle of 90 minutes can enhance cognitive performance and creativity.
In conclusion, to make the most of a power nap, an individual should aim to sleep for either 15 to 20 minutes or a full sleep cycle of 90 minutes.
Time Your Power Nap Strategically
When it comes to power napping, timing is key. To decide on the best time to take a nap, we can look to the siesta, which is a cultural tradition in many Mediterranean countries. In particular, siesta time typically falls after lunch and before 3 pm, which coincides with the post-lunch energy slump many people experience. However, it is important not to nap too late in the day as it could impact your ability to fall asleep at night. Meanwhile, napping after 3 pm is also often not recommended.
Remove All Distractions
To ensure a restful power nap, it is imperative to create a quiet environment by powering down your devices and silencing your phone. If you can’t avoid noise, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can be helpful. Alternatively, you could also try playing some relaxing sleep music to induce sleepiness. Not to mention, a dark environment is also ideal for napping, so consider shutting your bedroom curtains or wearing a high-quality and comfortable eye mask.
Establish a Suitable Environment
If you are not obtaining the desired results from your power naps, it may be time to make some changes. Perhaps your bed is too comfortable, or your office chair is overly rigid. What’s more, you can try to make changes to your routine, too, by switching the location, position, or time of day of your next power nap to aim for different outcomes.
To enhance your power nap experience, you might also want to consider using the best sleep apps for iPhone. It is a customizable sleep and focus program that employs psychoacoustic principles to create dreamscapes. These, in turn, help you fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and wake up feeling much more energized. Other than that, the app offers a large variety of sleep-related support that could help you achieve a more restful power nap.
Consume Some Caffeine Before Napping
Interestingly, studies have compared a traditional nap with a caffeine nap, which basically involves consuming caffeine just before taking a power nap, whereby the main idea is that the stimulating effects of caffeine kick in just as the person wakes up from their nap. With that, combining the impact of caffeine and a nap has been demonstrated to decrease sleep inertia as opposed to napping alone, thereby making it a helpful technique for workers.
The Bottom Line
In case you ever find yourself in need of a power nap, it may be due to not having the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep at night. However, it is vital to take note that power naps are not a substitute for insufficient night-time sleep. While they can provide a quick burst of energy to continue with daily tasks, they cannot make up for the overall damage to your health caused by inadequate sleep. In fact, the benefits of a power nap are greater when combined with adequate night-time sleep.