For many of us, the power nap is a real pleasure and a way to recharge the batteries. For others, however, falling asleep in the middle of the day is an impossible task, no matter how exhausted or sleep-deprived they may be. And there are situations in which we feel guilty for wasting time when there is work that has to be done. And isn’t the nap a childhood pastime?
The answer is NO.
A recent study, published in the Journal Sleep, found that even a 10-minute nap resulted in increased alertness and a boost in cognitive performance that could last as long as 155 minutes (over three hours).
Another study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that napping can also boost your mood. Researchers discovered that people were less impulsive and had higher levels of tolerance for frustration after a 60-minute midday snooze.
But before heading to the sofa for a power nap, note that it’s not a replacement for getting a good night’s sleep.
Sleep expert, Dr Rebecca Robbins, says sleep is a very personal experience and involves listening to your own body. So, if taking naps is something that makes you feel good, here are a few tips for you.
CREATE A ROUTINE
Just as sticking to a bedtime routine is important, the same goes for maintaining the same naptime schedule. Dr Robert Oexman, chiropractor and sleep director of the Sleep to Live Institute, explains that we have two times per day that our circadian rhythm changes and we become sleepy naturally. The first and greatest shift is at night and the second is after lunch. He recommends taking advantage of that post-lunch dip in energy and settling yourself down for a nap between the hours of 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm.
MAKE IT COMFORTABLE
The conditions your body requires for proper napping are no different than those required for proper nighttime sleeping. It’s best to keep the room dark, quiet and slightly cool. If you are napping at home, blackout curtains will do the necessary, but if you are at the office, wear an eye mask to give yourself the best chance of falling asleep.
Dr David Brown, a sleep psychologist working with children with sleep disorders, says in an office environment you might have trouble finding a place to lie down flat. However, that is better as napping on a flat surface may make it harder for you to wake up on time.
And in case you can’t take a proper power nap, giving yourself a few minutes mid-afternoon to rest your eyes is also an option. This way you can calm your mind, give some of your neurons a break and boost your productivity.
DON’T GO OVERBOARD
To reap the benefits of the daytime snooze, keep it under 30 minutes. Otherwise, it’s very likely to feel disoriented and irritated when you wake up. According to specialists, peak performance, creativity and alertness are achieved with short naps of 10 – 20 minutes.
So, next time you feel you need to take a break, don’t hesitate. Sneaking away for a 20-minute snooze may just provide you the energy boost you need to power through the rest of the day.