A power nap is a nap that recharges your body for the day, but doesn’t make you so energized that you are unable to sleep at night. Naps are not just for babies or children. They can restore your energy in a matter of 30-40 minutes and make you feel rested and relaxed. Naps can do wonders for people who often feel sleep deprived due to their irregular schedule or because they have irregular sleep patterns. This is especially helpful for people that often feel tired during the day.
From a neurological perspective, naps can help you reset your physiology and increase motor performance. You get a much needed dose of alertness and have a smooth sail through the day. On the other hand when you are sleep deprived, you get easily irritated and it affects your work, relationships and most importantly, your own health.
But napping is not just to make up for lost sleep. They also improve our cognitive abilities, reaction time, short-term memory and our mood.
1. How long to Nap?
Quick Power Naps
How long you nap determines how alert you feel. If you want to take a quick nap, nap for 10-20 minutes. It will give you a rapid dose of alertness and help you tackle activities, like typing or playing the piano, that require motor skills. Short naps of even 10-15 minutes can help you feel alert, mentally sharp and in a better mood right after you wake up. The best part? The benefits of 10-15 minutes of napping stay for a few hours. And you don’t feel sluggish as you may do after taking a longer nap. This is because you don’t enter the deep sleep state during a quick power nap.
If you want a longer nap, it is best to schedule this after lunch when your physiology changes naturally, your blood sugar goes low and your energy is low as well. If you want to take longer naps, set the timer to 1.5 hours as it is a full sleep cycle. You will have deep sleep for 1 hour and light sleep for the next half an hour. If you nap for lesser time, say 1 hour, it will leave you groggy as you will wake up without completing one full cycle of sleep. The idea is to wake up during your light sleep, not deep sleep.
REM sleep or deep sleep helps you make new neural connections and boosts your creative abilities. So if you have a project that requires significant mental power, it is best to take a long nap of about 90 minutes.
2. What Time is the Best to Take a Nap?
You can take a power nap at any time during the day. But according to research, early to mid-afternoon is the best time to take a nap.
Why? It brings in the most amount of ‘energy recharge’ as compared to other times of the day. It is also important to not nap late in the day because it will disturb your natural sleep cycle. Try taking a nap between 1 pm to 3 pm because this is the time when rejuvenation happens to the highest levels.
3. Naps or Coffee?
A nap helps you in a similar way as a coffee does - making you alert and giving you instant energy. But both are different in a lot of ways. With coffee your energy rises for a while, then falls down. With a nap, your energy rises, but doesn’t fade away abruptly. Coffee also creates dependency and can affect your sleep at night.
When you feel sleep deprived and exhausted, what should you go for - a cup of coffee or your pillow?
Well, if you time it right, a quick power nap can be better than a cup of coffee. This is because coffee comes with a crash that you feel sometime after consuming it.
So how to time your naps? If you can find the time, take a full 90-minute nap that puts you to deep sleep. But more often than not, you won’t find that much time. So it is best to time your naps to less than 30 minutes. Research shows that if it goes over 30 minutes, you enter deep sleep and then when you wake up, it leaves you groggy due to sleep inertia.
4. How about a Coffee Nap?
If you really love coffee, why not do both? In fact, many studies conducted at Loughborough University, UK suggest that a 15-minute coffee nap is better than an ordinary brief nap. Now you may be thinking, “what if the coffee doesn’t let me sleep for those 15-20 minutes?”. The good news is that, coffee naps seem to work better even when you stay half asleep during your power nap.
However, we don’t advise coffee naps to people with serious insomnia or mental health issues.
How to Take a Coffee Nap
1. Don’t consume any type of caffeine. Drink coffee. You can also drink tea but it contains less caffeine. Don’t savour every sip. Drink it fairly quickly so that there is enough time for the coffee to go through your gastrointestinal tract and go inside your bloodstream.
2. Now when you are done with the coffee, set a timer for 20 minutes and go to sleep right away. Don’t try to adjust your room or create a perfect environment. If you can make the room dark, kudos! But you should get to sleep immediately after.
3. If you can’t sleep, it is completely normal. Stay in that half-asleep stage because it is very rejuvenating too.
4. When the timer starts buzzing, wake up. Feel the new burst of energy and calm in your body. And thank that mug of coffee for keeping you warm!
Keep it Dark
It is important that you sleep in a dark room when napping. If you are napping while travelling, wearing an eye mask can help tremendously. Keep a blanket over you because your body temperature falls when you nap.
It is good if your surroundings are quiet but eventually the outside noise, or lack thereof, is meant to relax you. For example, some people love the ambient sounds of a coffee shop. Some people also find listening to white noise helps them relax and take better naps.
Now that you know how to nap right, get to it. No more sluggish days, no more toll on your physical or mental health. Stay healthy, stay energetic!