This article talks about the health benefits of napping and how to have a powernap. Plus, when to do it. Join me in my pursuit of hitting the snooze during the day.
The Nap You’ve Missed
How are you? Feeling drowsy? Energized? Or barely able to hold your eyes open? That would depend on many things, such as what time it is? How long have you been awake and how was your sleep last night?
What about closing those eyes for just a moment and…zzZZZzzz…
You’re back in kindergarten. The teacher says it’s nap time. “You need to rest and sleep if you want to keep playing!” I don’t know about you but back then I used to hate that. It was the most boring part of the day because you didn’t get to do awesome stuff. Most of the time, I just laid in my bed and pretended to be asleep.
But now I must say that having a short snooze is amazing and research also shows that there are a lot of health benefits to napping.
Napping Health Benefits
- Reduces Stress – Not getting enough sleep promotes cortisol production and taxes the adrenal glands. Excess leads to fat gain, weakened immune system and muscle loss. In a study done on Greeks, people who had a 30-minute nap at least 3 times a week, had 37% less chance of dying from heart conditions.
- Increases Alertness – Naps can prevent fatigue, restore concentration, make you alert and enhance performance. A NASA study found that a 40 minute nap increases alertness by 100%.
- Improves Learning and Working Memory – This is crucial for learning any skill, remembering information or tackling complex tasks.
- Enhances Relaxation and Mood – Napping has great restorative effects on the body and brain. You get to deal with all the tension built up during the day and can hit a quick reset button for your mind.
- Promotes Creativity and Problem Solving – The amount of cognitive work you can do depends on how much energy your brain has access to. Taking short naps in between studying or some other higher executive task is a great way to get a small boost of mental power. Napping has been very popular amongst many great people and geniuses, like Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali and Leonardo da Vinci.
Negative Effects of Napping
But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows at Dreamland. Napping can also mess up your day and night. You may get:
- Sleep Inertia – After waking up from a nap, you feel groggy and exhausted.
- Insomnia – You may get nighttime sleep problems.
- Laziness – If you sleep too much or not enough during your nap, you may hit a slump for the rest of the day.
When Should I Nap?
Napping isn’t for everyone and you shouldn’t have one all the time. So, when should you have your nap?
You might think that it’s a good idea to hit the sack whenever you get the slightest sign of sleepiness or fatigue but it’s not. If that were the case, we’d have to put sleeping pods all over the place. Which is actually not a bad idea…
Sleeping at random times for indefinite time lengths can mess up your circadian rhythm and may keep you up at night. That’s why you’d want to be strategic with your naps and have them with a purpose in mind.
The best time for a nap is mid afternoon around 12 to 2 PM. Before hitting the sack, you should’ve been awake for about 5-7 hours. This way your body has a reason to benefit from sleeping. It all depends on what your sleep schedule is like but napping after 4 PM may keep you up at night.
Napping is also great when you’re about to experience sleep loss because of a work shift or going out with friends.
How Long Should My Naps Be?
During sleep, your brain goes through several stages of sleep.
- Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) has 3 of them and in here your body is still quite awake. This is the weird dream-like state that recharges your creativity and gives a short energy boost. NREM sleep lasts anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes.
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is where the real magic happens. Your brain shuttles short term memory to long term storage, muscles are repaired and other metabolic processes occur. This is the real deep sleep. One REM cycle takes up to 70-90 minutes for completion.
To get the most out of your naps, you’d want to keep them relatively short. If you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, you’ll feel more tired than before. That’s why you should aim for either a 10-30 minute powernap or a 90 minute post-lunch snooze.
How to Have a Power Nap
I myself have practiced polyphasic sleeping with several naps throughout the day and I can doze off almost anywhere at any time if I want to. All you need is 20 minutes of your time, a good place to crawl up and something to lay your head upon.
Here are a few good items for having a powernap: a sleeping mask, a thin blanket, a pillow and some headphones. If you use a specific soundtrack, you can time the length of your naps perfectly. Just don’t sleep in and overextend them. You can even do it on the floor.
The most important thing is to fall asleep ASAP. You don’t want to waste time on simply laying there, trying to fall asleep and thinking about why you’re not falling asleep.
Just put on your headphones, crawl into a cozy position, relax your mind and loosen up the body.
Don’t feel guilty about it either. It shouldn’t be thought of as procrastination because you’re recharging your batteries for going harder afterward.
Have a Nap and Become Empowered
Napping in the afternoon is amazing for repairing from the morning and preparing yourself to stay high performance until the evening. I love it.