Getting enough sleep sometimes feels like an impossible feat. In fact, the CDC recently announced that more than one third of us are sleeping less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours each night. That’s why a daily nap probably sounds like the ultimate dream.
It’s also a really, really good idea. Not only will a quick nap reenergize you, but it can also make you more efficient, and help you perform better at work. “Naps help with attention, concentration, memory, mood, and stress management,” Shelby F. Harris, Psy.D., director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center, tells SELF. And it only has to be 15 minutes for you to reap the benefits. Enter: the life-changing power nap.
“The power nap is a godsend,” James B. Maas, Ph.D., sleep expert, professor and past chair of the psychology department at Cornell University, and creator of the phrase “power nap,” tells SELF. Employers are finally starting to realize it, too. More and more companies “are now having napping policies and they’re putting in nap rooms or nap pods where their workers can go for 15 or 20 minutes and take a power nap,” Maas explains.
Whether you’re recharging on a busy Sunday, snoozing in the office nap room, or sneaking out to your car during your lunch break to quickly recharge (or just casually putting your head down at your desk and hoping your boss doesn’t walk by), here’s how to make the most of a midday power nap.
1. Keep it short and sweet at just 15 to 20 minutes.
“Any longer and it will make you groggy for up to an hour or so after you come out of your power nap,” Maas says. That’s because your body will eventually fall into deep sleep, and waking up during a deep sleep stage is insanely difficult and disorienting.
It can also cause confusional arousal or sleep drunkenness, which is when you are up but haven’t fully snapped out of sleep (like that time you woke up and started frantically getting dressed for work even though it was Sunday afternoon), explains Rachel Salas, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “A lot of people are prone to parasomnia,” or abnormal behaviors during sleep, she adds, which could be anything from sleepwalking to sleep eating or texting. If you fall into deep sleep during a nap, “it’s possible you could have these happen.”
If you want to nap longer, make sure you have a solid 90 minutes. That’ll allow you to get through a full sleep cycle, Maas explains, so by the time you wake up, you’ll be back in the lighter stages of sleep and able to get up and actually feel refreshed.
2. Plan your nap for between lunchtime and 3 P.M.
The Spaniards know what they’re doing—siesta time is planned perfectly for when the body needs a nap. “Humans have a normal, natural dip, in our circadian rhythm,” in the afternoon, Salas says. “That’s actually prime time to take a nap.” So that post-lunch energy crash (when you can’t seem to focus on work anyway) is the ideal window to take a quick snooze. Just make sure to wrap it up before 3 p.m.—the later you nap, the greater chance you’ll have a tough time falling asleep that night.
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