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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Power Nap for Maximum Benefits

How to Power Nap for Maximum Benefits

Most mammals—nearly 85%—are polyphasic, which means they sleep multiple times during the day. However, humans are monophasic, which means we sleep just once a day. But due to modern lifestyles and increasing levels of stress, sleep deprivation is a common sight.

A good night’s sleep plays an important role in your overall health and well-being as it keeps the immune system in good shape and heals the body.[1] But if your sleep gets disturbed due to work schedules or any other reason, it’s recommended that you make up the loss through power naps.

A power nap is an afternoon nap lasting anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes can help reduce stress and offset the adverse effects caused by sleep deprivation. Power nap is a term coined by James Mass, a social psychologist at Cornell University. It can recharge and revitalize you fairly quickly.

Different Types of Power Naps

Power naps can be broadly classified into four types:

  • Planned napping: As the name suggests, this refers to a nap that you have planned in advance—for instance, when you know you’re going to have a long night in the office, you take a quick power nap during the day to see you through the night. This is also called preemptive napping.
  • Emergency napping: When you are extremely sleepy and struggle to keep your eyes open, the nap you need is called emergency napping. This kind of napping is especially useful when you feel sleepy while driving.
  • Habitual napping: When you nap at a scheduled time of the day regularly, it is called habitual napping.
  • Appetitive napping: When you nap just for the fun of it.

Different People, Different Duration

From an ultra-short power nap lasting as little as six minutes to a more elaborate 90-minute nap, individuals have a range of power naps to choose from.

The six-minute power nap is known to improve declarative memory—a type of long-term memory—which is useful when trying to recall facts and knowledge. According to Sara C Mednick, a sleep expert and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, 15 to 20 minutes of power napping can provide you with incredible benefits including alertness and superior motor performance.

A 20-minute power nap is considered ideal to boost the brain and stave off mid-day sleepiness. However, longer naps—ranging between 30 and 60 minutes—are known to benefit memory and decision-making skills.

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Napping for 60-90 minutes –also called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep revitalizes the brain connections and enhances creativity.

Benefits of Power Napping

It is believed that a power nap not only helps you feel energetic but it also boosts memory and cognitive skills. No wonder, a number of organizations and universities around the globe are creating napping areas for their employees and students.

Improve Brain Performance

Power naps are especially useful in alleviating sleep deficit and improving verbal memory, perceptual learning, math, reasoning, and response time. Besides, power naps reduce stress, help keep the mood upbeat and fight fatigue. Power naps are also known to help the cause of weight management.

Aware of the benefits of power naps, companies are increasingly creating sleep spaces, where employees can unwind and catch a quick siesta. As for employees, they are becoming more aware of the benefits of napping and increasingly dumping the use of caffeine or energy drinks to keep them going at the workplace.

In fact, a study conducted in 2008 reveals that power naps fare far better than coffee in improving motor skills, perceptual learning, and verbal memory.[2]

The researchers made the participants nap for 60 to 90 minutes during the period of study. The study revealed that

“afternoon naps improved free recall memory compared to the caffeine group after both 20 minutes and seven hour intervals, while resulting in improved learning on physical tasks than caffeine.”

The study goes on to say that caffeine impairs motor sequence learning and declarative verbal memory, that are boosted by power naps.

Boost Energy

Good nappers wake up energized and alert and usually, prefer power naps over caffeine to restore their energy. Although caffeine or other energy drinks are known to increase energy levels, they do not help with the cognitive skills.

A study conducted in 1995 by NASA evaluated the benefits of napping on 747 participating pilots.[3] Each pilot in the nappers group napped for 40 minutes during the day, with an average sleep time of 28.5 minutes. Compared with the non-nappers, this group “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses.” Numerous subsequent studies have corroborated the findings of the NASA study that napping for just about the right duration increases alertness and productivity.

That said, not every individual needs a power nap to re-energize. It is important to understand why you need to nap. If you wish to take a nap only because you feel sleepy throughout the day, it may be an indication of stress, insomnia, or some other sleep disorder.

It completely depends on your genetic constitution whether you actually need a power nap or not. If you are not a good napper, you may actually wake up feeling worse because you may fall into a deep sleep during the nap.

Prevent Heart Diseases and Cancer

Yet another study conducted over a period of six years on nearly 24,000 healthy people (not suffering from coronary heart disease, stroke, or cancer) in 2007 in Greece revealed that all the participants who napped at least three times a week had a 37% lower chance of dying from a heart disease. This is because day-time power naps accelerate cardio-vascular recovery with a 45-minute nap helping lower the blood pressure—especially useful for people suffering from stress.

That’s not all, a letter published in the British Journal of Nutrition says power naps can help prevent obesity and weight maintenance.[4]

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Children Too Benefit from Napping

It is now well known that napping benefits people of all ages, but it is particularly beneficial for children. Generally, toddlers are biphasic—sleep twice a day. However, as they grow up, they become monophasic.

A study by Rebecca Spencer states that sleeping during the day is particularly effective in children as it helps boost their learning capabilities and enhances memory of the concepts learned earlier in the day.[5] She goes on to say that:

“distributed sleep is critical in early learning; when short-term memory stores are limited, memory consolidation must take place frequently.”

Therefore, children who do not take a nap during the day experience deficient performance that cannot be truly undone by night-time sleep alone. Nap-deprived children—aged between 1 and 3 years—often show poor problem solving skills and are more anxious.

Stigma

Although power naps are proved to bring numerous health benefits, until recently, it also had social stigmas associated with them.

Day-time nappers were often branded lazy with a lackadaisical attitude, and general sub-standard disposition. It was also believed that napping was the territory of children, elderly, and/or the sick. While numerous researches have been successful in busting these myths, there is still some level of education required about the benefits day-time power naps bring.

People who still feel power napping is a no-no, must know that Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, and even Leonardo da Vinci were all nappers—and successful.

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Steps to a Great Power Nap

The objective of a power nap is to re-energize and wake up as quickly as possible to maximize your productivity. Therefore, as with any good thing, to get the best out of your power nap, there are certain do’s and don’ts:

  1. Try to fall asleep as quickly as possible. Shut out any distractions that prevent you from falling asleep quickly.
  2. Keep your phone on silent mode to avoid disturbance from phone calls or messages.
  3. It’s a good idea to keep the nap short and quick in order to avoid waking up groggy. Consider setting an alarm for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes.
  4. Dim the lights of the room you choose to take your nap in. Light on the eyes makes it difficult to fall asleep quickly. Consider using an eye mask to cut off the light.
  5. Cut off the surrounding noise for a peaceful nap. Consider wearing noise-reduction headphone or plug in your earphones.
  6. Usually during a quick snooze, the body temperature falls. Keep a blanket or sheet handy to keep yourself warm.
  7. If you are napping in your office, consider using the Do Not Disturb sign to let colleagues know you are snoozing.
  8. Drink a cup of coffee before your power nap. The nap will leave you refreshed and the effect of caffeine will give you the energy to be more productive.
  9. Get up and get back to whatever you were doing quickly. Consider splashing some water on your face, a brisk walk to let your body know that the nap is over.
  10. Be consistent with you nap schedules. This means choosing the same time during the day for your power nap—ideal time for a power nap is usually between 1pm and 3pm.

Final Thoughts

As we may see, numerous studies have firmly established the numerous benefits power naps have to your health. But, it is also important to note that it may not always be possible for people to nap.

For instance, people accustomed to sleeping only on their bed face trouble napping in the office. And then there are people who wake up groggy and disoriented after a nap, which can adversely impact their productivity in the office.

A nap too long can leave you in a condition where you can’t sleep at night. So, it becomes critical to understand your need for a power nap and the ideal duration that re-energizes and revitalizes you. After all, the end objective is to rejuvenate yourself.

Happy napping!

More About Sleep and Productivity

Featured photo credit: Katya Austin via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Bijal Panchal

Brand Planning: Managing Sleep Diagnostic, Sleep Therapy & Reusable Mask Portfolio

How to Power Nap for Maximum Benefits

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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