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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 March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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