People often de-value sleeping or napping. But believe it or not, nearly one-third of the human race are sleep-deprived.
At this point, maybe the importance of a power nap hasn’t strung a chord with you yet. Let me throw you some mind-blowing stats.
A power nap boosts alertness greatly.
From a groundbreaking NASA study in 1995, researchers experimented the beneficial effects of napping on 747 pilots.
Each participant was allowed a 40-minute nap during the day, and “sleeping on average for 25.8 minutes (which is just about right)”. The nappers “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses compared to the No-Rest Group.”
What else does a power nap bring?
Apart from improving vigilance, there are more benefits to power naps.
It boosts memory. Research has shown taking an afternoon nap can improve short-term in younger adults.
It reduces mistakes. The NASA study has proven the pilots who took naps had better job performances. This goes for people working in the medical field and emergency situations.
It improves learning. A short nap provides wakefulness to the body and boost the ability to learn.
Famous people nap too!
The secret to success is often taking power naps. U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, and political figures like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher all napped back in the day.
How do you know you need to nap?
Here are 6 major signs your body tells you to nap:
You are constantly cranky. The sleepier you are, the more irritable you are. You are less capable to handle stress.
You are always hungry. A study has shown sleep deprivation results in decreased level of leptin, which is a hormone that inhibits hunger and regulates energy.
You zone out easily. Without proper rest, it’s easy to let the Zs overrule what you are working on.
Your eyes are puffy, your skin is blemished. A poor sleep upsets hormones, and leads to unusual breakouts.
You have a bad immune system. The sleepier the body, the weaker it is.
You are even immune to coffee. If coffee doesn’t help, you need to seriously regain your sleep.
So, nap or coffee?
9 out of 10 times, you will choose coffee.
It is easily accessible, doesn’t take up much space, and immediately wakes you up. On the flip side, caffeine leads to a crash but napping doesn’t. Overall, napping has more advantages than coffee does, so how to nap effectively?
Plan power naps into your daily routine.
When you are experiencing fatigue or you know you are about to experience sleep loss, you should take a power nap to regain your energy. Mid-afternoon, around 2 or 3 p.m., is the best time to nap, because post-lunch sleepiness is about to hit you. Also, this time is least likely to affect your normal nighttime sleep schedule.
Rest comfortably to optimize the power nap experience.
It’s very important to find a relaxing place to nap. The best place is definitely your bedroom, but when you are not at home, a chair or a couch are also good. Make sure the place is not too cold or too warm, preferrably around 65°F or 18°C. Use earbuds and eye masks to block any sound or light that will potentially affect your sleep. Also, shut your phone and other distractions off to have the perfect nap.
But don’t over-nap!
Your power nap shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes.
Have you ever woken up feeling groggy? If yes, then you have probably over-napped. After the first 30 minutes of your sleep, your body will enter the “deep sleep” mode and develop sleep inertia when you wake up.
And take power naps carefully, it may backfire on you.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are some people who shouldn’t take power naps.
People who suffer with insomnia. People with temporary sleep issues should not take naps, because napping perpetuates a more fragmented sleep pattern and reduces nighttime sleeping drive.
People with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing while sleeping, which causes the person to be constantly tired. Unfortunately, naps can’t fix that.
Napping anywhere and everywhere is possible.
At campuses, several schools have invested napping pods for students to nap. But if these pods aren’t available, take 20 to 30 minutes off or the gap between classes to regain energy and retain what you’ve learned.
At workplaces, find a good quiet spot, like a meeting room or the lounging area to rest before heading back to your desk or cubicle.
Everyone needs to sleep well.
For more information, watch this TED talk of Arianna Huffington encouraging people (especially type-A women) to sleep well in order to achieve success.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io