Try a power nap instead.
You may not realize, but you’ve already had plenty of practice at power napping. Think back to your days at kindergarten and pre-primary– nap time. Whilst you may have been forced to nap against your will, this was your time to re-energize and re-charge. And for most of us, it worked.
Studies have found that a 10-minute daytime nap can improve alertness and performance for about 2.5 hours when you‘re sleep deprived and for 4 hours when you’re not sleep deprived.
Naps also seem to be beneficial for memory consolidation of new information, improving our mood and subjective levels of sleepiness and fatigue.
So what constitutes the perfect power nap?
Avoid the Groggy Zone (i.e. sleep inertia) – Keep your naps short and sweet
Hayashi and his team at the department of Behavioural Sciences at Hiroshima University found you need to enter sleep stages 1 and 2 to experience the perfect power nap, with all the benefits that come with it (e.g. improved alertness and performance). They also found that you need a minimum of 3 minutes of stage 2 sleep to experience the full restorative power of a nap.
Napping for less than 30 minutes seems to do the trick, they say. Other sleep experts suggest that naps between 14 – 24 minutes is what you should aim for.
Feel like that’s too short? Think again.
Generally speaking, the shorter the power nap, the better.
Have you ever had the experience when you came home from school or work, fell asleep and woke up 1 or 2 hours later as the sun was setting? Most likely you felt groggy and disoriented. You may have even felt slightly panicked as you thought it was the next day.
The reason for experiencing this grogginess is that you entered your deep sleep cycle and failed to complete it. To avoid feeling groggy and worse than you felt before, you need to limit the duration of your power nap to between 14 – 24 minutes, so you don’t go beyond stage 2 sleep. Any more than this and you’ll be entering the groggy zone.
Nap before 5pm, preferably after lunch
In addition, you want to make sure you nap before 5pm to avoid disrupting your sleep at night. The best time to nap seems to be when you experience the post lunch dip (1pm – 3pm).
Block out the light
Where should you nap? A dark room is best, but if that’s not available, put something over your eyes (e.g. an eye mask) to block out the light. This will allow you to fall asleep quickly.
Ultimately, the key to perfecting your power naps is to just do it – nap. And do it regularly. If you can make napping a regular part of your routine it will allow you to see what works best for you – what position allows you to fall asleep quickly, what environment allows you to relax the most and what length of time suits you.
At the end of the day, power naps are hugely beneficial but you need to remember, we’re all different. What may work for me, may not work as well for you.
So as an experiment, after you next have lunch, grab yourself a cosy pillow, close the blinds and treat yourself to a power nap. See how much of a difference it makes to your alertness, creativity and performance.
Growth Hormone Secretion during sleep and strenuous exercise
For many years it was believed that growth hormone was secreted primarily during the period of growth but then disappeared from the blood at adolescence. However, this has proved not to be true. Typically throughout the day the hormone is mostly secreted during high intensity exercises, and during the first few hours of deep sleep, but also during napping. Power napping prove to be vital for proper athlete recuperation.
Dr. David Carfagno is a Board Certified Internist and Sports Physician, who trained at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation
Hayashi, M., Motoyoshi, N., & Hori, T. (2005). Recuperative power of a short daytime nap with or without stage 2 sleep. Sleep, 28(7), 829-836.
Jane. Perfecting the Power Nap (2012). Retrieved from: http://learningfundamentals.com.au/blog/perfecting-the-power-nap/