Some days when it feels like you’re not running on all cylinders, whether it’s a work day or a weekend full of errands, you see a friend who looks full of energy. Did they have an extra shot of espresso in their morning latte or just finish a great workout? No, they confide. They grabbed a power nap.
You might think you could never fall asleep in the daytime, or that taking an afternoon nap would throw a wrench into your schedule. You might even find yourself wondering: do power naps work, and are power naps healthy? It may surprise you to know that almost anyone can benefit from a good power nap.
As many people have already learned, recharging with a power nap can help you achieve your goals of being successful, physically healthy and contribute to your overall self-care. Research has shown that with some daytime shut-eye, you can make better decisions and be more productive, all while giving your brain a much-needed break.
Let’s look at the benefits of power naps, and simple tips for adding them to your daily routine.
What is a Power Nap?
The idea of laying down and sleeping during the day might seem foreign to some people. But studies have shown that short, controlled periods of sleep are not only rejuvenating for your body, they help your brain function better, too. Let’s take a closer look at the concept. A power nap is a short window of sleep that happens during the day, ideally between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Taking a nap any later than that is not recommended because it might disrupt your regular nighttime sleep schedule.
You’ll want to pick the length of power nap that works best for you. Typically, most power naps last between 10 and 30 minutes. Many people think this timeframe is the sweet spot for an afternoon snooze, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed, alert, and giving you a quick boost of energy. Yet some people find their bliss in mini power naps lasting just 6 minutes. Research has shown that the simple act of falling asleep – even if you wake up just minutes later – improves your brain’s memory processing center. Still others find that longer power naps work best for them, and they set aside an hour for an afternoon reboot. These 60-minute naps drop you into deep, slow-wave sleep - the type that helps you remember places, names and faces better. However, your brain likely won’t cycle through a full sleep pattern in an hour, so you could wake up from a longer nap feeling a bit groggy. If you choose the 60-minute option for yourself, make sure to pencil in a little wake-up time so you can transition gently from nap to wakefulness.
Benefits of Power Napping
We all know what it feels like to start off our day fresh, well-rested and alert. But by afternoon, we might feel like we’re dragging a little, and our brain might not be quite as sharp as it was a few hours before. A power nap can help restore that feeling of alertness by enhancing our cognitive abilities.
Napping can not only give our brains a boost by improving memory function and learning ability, it can also improve our mood and increase our creativity and productivity. A NASA study involving its astronauts found that a power nap improved their overall performance by nearly 35 percent and their level of alertness by 100 percent.
Better mental alertness after a nap means people are less likely to make mistakes in their work, and less likely to cause drowsy driving accidents on the road. But even more than that, power naps can land like a mini-vacation in the middle of your day, giving your body a chance to relax and feel rejuvenated.
Power Napping Tips to Consider
Before starting off on your power-napping journey, there are a few things you should consider.
- First, you’ll want to set an alarm. This gives your nap a finite spot in your day, and it takes your mind off worrying about whether you will wake up on time.
- Second, get rid of all distractions so you can nap successfully. This might mean playing some relaxing acoustic or classical music in the background, using earplugs to block outside noise, or covering up with a warm blanket to help you sink into a cozy sleep.
- You should also assess how you are really feeling right before a nap. Are you really tired enough to fall asleep? If you know you’re not, skip the nap so you won’t spend 20 minutes staring at the ceiling and waiting for your alarm to go off.
- Lastly, know that it can take a little time to get back to full energy after you wake up from a power nap. Be kind to your body and give yourself at least 15 minutes to adjust after you finish your nap.
As your body is getting adjusted to the benefits of power napping, you might find at first that you don’t quite feel ready for bed at your regular time each night. That’s a normal reaction. You may want to consider a natural sleep aid like Nutrilite™ Sleep Health, which has a proprietary blend of valerian, hops and lemon balm which helps you relax so you can fall asleep.
Find a Good Spot to Rest
Comfort is key when it comes to a successful power nap. Don’t try to save time by sleeping while sitting up in your chair at the office.
- Begin by finding a nice spot where you can lay down or at least recline. Maybe this is a couch or even just tilting back the seat in your car.
- Next, you’ll want to make your napping spot as dark as possible. Shut the curtains or blinds, pull down the shades, put on a sleep mask or even a pair of dark sunglasses to make your surroundings as dim as possible.
- Try to reduce the noise level. This can mean wearing noise-cancelling headphones, a set of earplugs, or using a white noise app on your phone that can make falling asleep easier.
- Make sure to keep your surroundings at a comfortable temperature. For some people, this means turning down the heat a few degrees before you nap, while others will reach for a sweater or blanket to make themselves a bit warmer as they doze off.
Tapping into the benefits of power napping can not only give you a mental boost and help you feel refreshed, but it can be one of the tools you use to keep yourself physically healthy and on a path to being successful when it comes to feeling your best.