New Studies have found that a 20 minute nap is more effective at increasing alertness than either 200 mg of caffeine or 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Naps are also a good way to decrease stress and prevent burn-out. Here are six tips for perfect power napping.
It can be hard to “hit the off button” in the middle of a busy day, especially if you have tasks to complete in the afternoon. It’s important to prepare your mind and body for sleep. Avoid caffeine, carbohydrates, sugar, and spicy foods for two hours before nap time. Stimulants and high blood sugar will keep your mind racing. If you’re feeling stressed, use relaxation techniques to calm yourself down. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, tighten your stomach muscles, then relax and exhale through your mouth. Tighten all of your muscles, starting with your toes and moving up your body to your neck, then relax your muscles one by one.
2 Find the right place
If you’re at home in the afternoon, you have the luxury of napping in your bed. But if you commute to work and want to powernap during your lunch break, you’ll need to find an appropriate space. Napping at your desk is only an option if you have a suitable chair and an understanding employer. If you drive to work, you can nap in your car where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Another possibility is to reserve a small meeting room for half an hour each day. If it doesn’t have comfortable furniture, bring a camping mat and sleep on the floor. If your office has a break room with couches or arm chairs, you may be able to nap there. Choose a quiet time and ask your colleagues not to disturb you.
3 Make napping part of your sleep routine
At first you may find it difficult to sleep during the day, even if you’re feeling tired. But if you continue to nap at the same time, in the same place and for the same duration, your brain and body will adjust and you will be able to fall asleep shortly after closing your eyes. Once you get used to the routine, you may also find that you automatically wake up after twenty minutes without the need for an alarm. Keep in mind that napping is simply a way to re-energize. It is not a substitute for a good night’s rest. If you wake up from a dream during a twenty minute power nap, it’s a sign that you are sleep deprived and are immediately slipping into a later stage of the sleep cycle.
4. Aim to nap for twenty minutes
There are five stages of sleep. During stage one, you begin to drift in and out becoming less alert. During stage two, your brain waves slow down. By stage three, you are in deep sleep and cannot be easily woken. When you first fall asleep, stages one and two each last about ten minutes. If you wake up after a twenty minute nap you will feel energized. A longer nap may be counterproductive. If you allow yourself to go into stage three, you will probably suffer from sleep inertia. People woken from a deep sleep tend to feel sluggish and disoriented rather than refreshed.
5. Nap in the afternoon
The best time to nap is between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Most people are naturally a bit groggy at this time of day and find it easy to fall asleep. The internal biological clock in the brain maintains a balance between the homeostatic sleep drive and the circadian alerting system. The sleep drive increases with every waking hour, but during most of the day, the alerting signal opposes it, keeping us awake. When the alerting signal drops off at night, the sleep drive takes over. During a couple of hours each afternoon, the strength of the alerting signal fails to keep up with the strength of the sleep drive and people become drowsy. This is why some cultures have incorporated afternoon naps or siestas into their daily routines.
6. Get Comfortable
If you nap in a chair, experiment with placing pillows in the best position to support your back and neck while dosing. A blanket may not be necessary for warmth, but can help you get to sleep by reminding you of bedtime comforts.
Wearing an eye mask will block out light to stimulate the sleep drive. If you’re napping in a public place, it will also signal to others that you haven’t accidently drifted off. Ear plugs are more problematic. In addition to blocking out background noise, they may prevent you from hearing your wake-up alarm. One solution is to set the alarm on your cell phone and nap with the earphones in.