Power naps are a great way to recharge your batteries especially when you have a lot to do. In fact, in a recent poll, as many as 51 percents of Americans admitted to napping at work. A survey by the Pew Research Center showed that one-third of Americans take a nap on a typical day. Folks at the Pew also said that people who have difficulty sleeping at night are more likely to nap. But just what is it that napping does for you? And, is napping good for everybody? How long is a power nap? We answer these questions and more.
Power naps are naps that end before the onset of deep sleep. The short duration – anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes – is what helps keep the mind alert upon waking and energizes the body. It has other benefits too like those below.
It’s hard to stay alert throughout the day, but power naps help you do that. They’re what you need to be alert and attentive for longer periods of time. If you sleep longer than that, you go into a deeper stage of sleep and will wake up feeling groggy instead of alert. According to Leon Lack of Flinders University, 10 to 15 minutes is the sweet spot for improving alertness and reaction times. This rejuvenation can last for as long as three hours.
Working memory is temporary storage of information that helps you remember what you need to until you use that information. It can get overloaded with data, and you may find yourself having trouble remembering things. Power naps improve working memory and enable you to complete the tasks you have to more efficiently.
In a study, two groups of people were made to memorize a set of illustrated cards. After a 40-minute break, they were made to learn another set of cards. The group that napped during the break were able to remember the cards better.
Power naps provide a quick escape from stress, which is important for overall health. If you haven’t had proper sleep the night before, napping the next day can restore hormones to normal levels. A study by Brice Faraut of the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité showed that napping for 30 minutes after sleeping only for two hours the previous night restored levels of norepinephrine to normal. Norepinephrine is a hormone that’s involved in stress. Too much of it can increase blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure, which can have a negative impact on health.
Night-time sleep promotes the production of serotonin, and so do power naps. Serotonin is a chemical that regulates mood, and low levels can lead to anxiety, aggression, and depression. By getting power naps in the day, you boost serotonin which in turn improves your mood, keeps you happy and more productive. A study by the Edinburgh International Science Festival saw that 66 percent of people who napped for under 30 minutes reported being happy.
Poor night-time sleep can impact the body’s ability to regulate stress hormones. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure and even heart disease. Research done by Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens found that midday naps were linked with lower blood pressure and could perhaps reduce the amount of antihypertensive medication in those with high blood pressure.
However, the key is to keep power naps short. Long naps for 40 minutes or more were linked to a spike in the risk of developing metabolic syndromes that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar etc.
Taking power naps don’t need special schooling, but there are some things you can do (and should not do) to enjoy the best results.
Ideally, power naps should max out at 30 minutes and no longer. This is because you want to wake up before entering deep sleep or slow wave sleep (SWS). If you wake up too late, you’ll be groggy and far from energized.
The best time to nap is between 1 pm and 4 pm. This is when the afternoon slump sets in as your core body temperature begin to drop. Your energy levels dip, and you feel sluggish and tired. If you nap too late, there’s the risk of ruining night-time sleep.
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It may seem counterproductive but having a cup of coffee minutes before you take a power nap can help you feel more alert when you wake. It takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to kick in so if you drink it before a power nap, you can feel the effects upon waking.
Forcing yourself to nap will only keep you from it. If you can’t nap, don’t. One way to encourage sleep is to find a place to recline or put your head down. You can also use a white noise machine or listen to white noise on earphones plugged into your phone.
Napping can relieve some of the bad effects of sleep deprivation but if you have insomnia, you probably shouldn’t as it might keep you awake at night. Of course, if you’re exhausted, a 15-minute nap will do you good. However, you should make sure that you nap in the early afternoon otherwise it may disrupt night-time sleep.
You should try to get better sleep at night so that you can enjoy the benefits of power naps. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Banish work to the office and make your bedroom a place of relaxation. Buy a mattress that helps you sleep better. Use an innovative mattress like Nuvanna for better comfort and support – two characteristics that can send you off to sleep.
Napping is sometimes seen as a sign of laziness, but things are changing. Companies have begun to see the importance of stealing a little sleep, and some have installed sleep pods where workers can get in shut-eye. Power naps are a natural and safe way to restore energy, boost memory and keep your heart healthy. They allow you to achieve more and lower stress. Just remember to keep them short and sweet and have them in the early or mid-afternoon.