By Ryan M Hall
Kindergartners love them, College students love them, and let’s be honest, grandma and grandpa loved them, so why don’t we take more naps in between these stages of life? Should we really let our schedules dictate our health and happiness?
If kids know it and grandma knew it, why don’t we pay attention and get some mid day sleep? These days there are a hundred reasons a day to avoid sleep, but it’s not always healthy. Despite the logic that spending more time on your endless to do list will get more done, taking a few minutes to yourself can actually improve your performance in almost all areas of your life.
You don’t have to take an hour long nap every day to benefit from the logic of a kindergartner. In fact, you can do it in a relatively short amount of time if you learn to take power naps.
Why Take a Power Nap?
Countless studies performed over the past several years have shown that a mid afternoon power nap can improve:
- Reaction Time
- Short Term Memory
- Physical and Mental Performance
- Information Processing
- Learning Capacity
- Risk of Heart problems
Further, a 20 minute nap in the afternoon has been proven to be more effective than sleeping an extra 20 minutes in the morning. With the improvements that these studies showed in both physical and mental performance, it seems an odd thing that most of our society doesn’t nap each afternoon. Of course, some of us don’t think we can spare the time for a nap. I can’t always do it, but even if we could spare a few minutes, it could make a difference.
How Long Should I Sleep?
While an hour nap can have fantastic health benefits, getting that much sleep in the afternoon will make it hard for some people to fall asleep at night. The reason that this can cause wakefulness at night is that when you sleep this long, you start to cycle into the deeper stages of sleep that you don’t ever reach when you power nap.
The typical power nap should allow for between 15-30 minutes of actual sleep. Studies have found that staying under that 30 minute mark will keep you in the light sleep stages, but also allow you enough rest to feel refreshed. Anything over 30 minutes will give your body a chance to get to deep sleep, and you will probably wake up groggier than you were before. Stay within the magic 15-30 minute window for optimal results.
How to Make it a Caffeine Power Nap
There has been some buzz lately about the caffeine power nap. This is a really basic thing, but can add such a kick to the energy you feel after your regular power nap. The premise is simple; it takes about 30 minutes for the caffeine in a cup of coffee to process through your system and give you that coffee kick. So if you are planning a power nap, and you haven’t been drinking coffee all day since 6am, you can drink a cup of coffee, or other caffeinated beverage just before you lay down. This way, you’ll wake up a short while later and almost immediately feel the effects of the caffeine combined with the energy you got from the nap. That’s all it takes to make a power nap a caffeine power nap and really wake up with some extra pizazz.
Power Nap Positions
If you have somewhere comfortable to lie down and rest, that is absolutely best. But if you don’ t have a bed or couch nearby for afternoon naps, you can try to get rest just about anywhere you are. I have had power naps in my car, at my desk, or even in the quiet break room at the office I used to work at. Try to find a place that is quiet and comfortable where you can conk out for a few minutes. If you have an area that will work well, it is suggested that you lie on your back and elevate your feet above your head. I have napped other ways, but I prefer to sleep with my feet elevated when I’m having a power nap. Try a few different positions and choose one that works best for you.
How to Finish a Power Nap
Exercise. I don’t mean vigorous exercise, but it’s important to get up and get moving after a power nap so that you can shake any grogginess that you may be experiencing. You don’t have to do anything extensive, but a walk around the office will do. Just get your body moving and your blood flowing. Otherwise, you may sit down and get comfortable again and start to get sleepy. Another good idea is to rinse your face and hands with cold water, the water will help to shock you awake.
What if I Don’t Have the Time?
Many people just don’t have the time to take a power nap. If you’re one of the ones that is strapped for time, chances are that you need it more than anybody. But, if you absolutely can’t find a time or place to take a nap, try just closing your eyes for 5 minutes. The rest will lower your heart rate and help your mind refresh a little. Another great way to rest is to meditate for 5 minutes. This will start to cycle your brain waves into the lower patterns that you experience during sleep. So if all you can do is grab a breather for a few minutes, close your eyes and meditate. This alone could make a huge difference in your day.
As a father with young children, I hear so many people remark that they wish they had that energy. I always tell these people the same thing, get some good sleep and you might. A power nap is a great way to catch up on some of your sleep debt and improve your overall performance during the day. Give it a try, you might be surprised at the difference it can make.
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