Sleep is vital to our lives to rest our bodies and achieve rejuvenation. But sleep deprivation is becoming more and more common in our modern 24/7 lifestyles. Most mammals have multiple periods of sleep and wakefulness during their days, but humans are an exception. We typically sleep at night and are awake during the day, for better or for worse. Many experts believe that power naps are a significant way to curb fatigue, boost energy and improve alertness. We’re exploring the benefits of power naps here.
Power naps are typically defined as 10-30 minutes of sleep in the early afternoon. If you try to take a nap before 1 p.m., your body will probably not be tired enough for sleep. If you sleep past 4 p.m., it may interrupt your nighttime sleep. Therefore, a power nap between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. is best. Studies indicate that even this short burst of sleep can greatly improve alertness and performance. Power naps can help you most directly after the nap period and may prolong concentration for several hours later than usual. Additionally, napping has proved to be excellent for the cardiovascular system, to reduce stress and aid in weight loss.
Sleep expert Sara C. Mednick, PhD wrote a book entitled Take a Nap! Change your Life in which she outlines the benefits of different lengths of sleep. The 20-minute power nap, known as stage 2 sleep, is great for alertness and increased motor skills. Naps ranging from 30 to 60 minutes offers slow-wave sleep that improves memory and helps with decision-making skills. Even longer naps of up to 90 minutes allows R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) sleep that is associated with creative problem solving and greater brain connections.
For those who are truly sleep deprived, longer daytime naps may be in order to “catch up” on sleep. However, shorter power naps of less than 40 minutes are refreshing without leaving the body feeling groggy from being ripped out of sleep. Plus, most adults in the U.S. don’t have the luxury of napping for longer than 30 minutes per day. Other cultures put a greater value on naps and schedule time for them during their workdays. Some businesses like Google and Huffington Post offer sleep pods in their offices to help their employees catch some zzz’s during their day. The theory is that they will be more productive and perform better if they are better rested. Still, this is a rarity in most places of business.
So what’s an average gal to do to get in a power nap? Well, it isn’t always easy. Finding time for power naps may take planning. Scheduled naps are often better than emergency naps because they help you sleep before you are overly exhausted. If you are home with kids who nap, take a power nap while they are sleeping. Even if you spend 30 minutes napping, chances are you’ll have leftover time to get other things done, and you’ll be even more productive at them to boot. If you work a regular daytime job, make time for naps on the weekend to recharge your body and get ready for the week to come.
Of course, naps should not be a reason you stay up later. Nighttime sleep is still very important. Also, your sleep environment should be one without too much stimulation such as that from televisions, electronics and bright lights, and should be set a comfortable temperature.
Enjoy your power naps when you can! Sweet dreams!