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How To Design The Perfect Nap

How To Design The Perfect Nap
Nap

Most people enjoy a good nap now and then, but are you really utilizing their full power?

A correctly performed nap can give you a great boost in energy, focus, and concentration, but a poorly executed nap can leave you groggy and more tired than when you started.

Several cultures around the world use a “siesta” in the afternoon to stay productive, and many workers in the U.S. have reported success avoiding afternoon drowsiness with a nap. Some people (myself included) have even excelled on nothing but six well times naps per day, during polyphasic sleep.

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Taking six naps per day has given me a chance to design the perfect nap. Here’s how:


Get the timing right

The single most important aspect of a nap is making it the right length, and it requires a little background explanation to understand why.

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It turns out that dreaming is the most important part of sleep. Test subjects who were deprived of dreams (meaning they were woken up when they started to dream, but otherwise allowed to sleep as much as they wanted) performed on tests as if they had not slept at all. Furthermore, the longer they were deprived of dreams, the more frequently their brains attempted to start dreaming. Mice who were deprived of dreams for more than a few weeks died!

You may have noticed this on your own if you ever took a quick nap, and vividly remembered your dreams afterwards. When exhausted, you will tend to dream more.

So what does this all mean? It means that your goal during a nap is to enter the REM sleep phase quickly (this is where most dreaming occurs), and to wake up as soon as the REM sleep phase is over. If you sleep past the REM phase you’ll enter deeper phases of sleep and it will be really difficult to get up!

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The only reason this is difficult is that everyone sleeps differently. For most people, their optimal nap time (where they can wake up just as they finish REM) is between 15 and 30 minutes, but you’ll have to test to find yours precisely.

What makes it more difficult is that you have to take into account how long it takes you to fall asleep. When you are first perfecting your naps, it could take quite a while to fall asleep, so I’d suggest starting with a 30-35 minute nap, and working your way down.

Don’t be surprised if after a 30 minute nap you are exhausted. You may have gone right through REM into a deeper sleep phase. It will feel like being woken up in the middle of the night, and during these times I’ve had trouble with even the most basic tasks like keeping my balance or forming sentences.

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Each day, try a different length of nap, reducing the time by 3-5 minutes, and record your energy levels. As you learn to fall asleep quicker, and close in on your optimal time, you’ll notice a remarkable thing: it’s possible to wake up from a nap totally refreshed and alert!

This is the sweet spot you are searching for. Next week, I’ll delve further into optimal light and sound conditions for power napping, and show you a little trick I use to fall asleep anywhere (airports, desks, couches, etc).

Brian Armstrong is an entrepreneur who sleeps 2-3 hours per day using polyphasic napping. He became financially free running his own business at the age of 23, and today seeks to help others quit the 9-to-5 corporate world to start their own business. For more great tips visit his blog.

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Last Updated on September 10, 2019

How to Master the Art of Prioritization

How to Master the Art of Prioritization

Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

Effective Prioritization

There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

My point is:

The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

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Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

Reference

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