Research has shown that a short nap could be the key to more productive waking hours, so what’s the best way to implement this into your daily routine?
Unlike 85 per cent of mammalian species, humans only sleep once per day. Whether this is the way nature intended us to work, or if it’s simply the way we’ve conditioned ourselves in response to modern society, is still largely unknown to scientists. Regardless, what is clear is that almost a third of us say we simply aren’t getting enough sleep.
Short bouts of sleep during the day, otherwise known as ‘power napping’, can be one effective way to tackle sleep deprivation and increase the amount of time you spend sleeping. Author and sleep expert Sara C. Mednick, PhD, a sleep researcher at the University of California, agrees:
“You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping. You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost.”
So what are the benefits of power napping, and how can you make the most of them?
The benefits of power napping
Power napping is about more than just trying to catch up on lost sleep. The practice is slowly but surely creeping into workplaces across the UK — like London-based tech firm Potato, and Nats: the UK’s national air traffic control service — and when you explore the benefits of power napping this comes as no surprise.
According to recent findings, it can actively improve our productivity during our waking hours. In fact, power napping has been shown to improve cognitive performance in a variety of different ways, including:
- Facilitating creative problem solving and logical reasoning
- Enhancing our ability to retain and remember information
- Increasing our capacity for learning new information
- Improving our overall mood and reducing stress levels
- Decreasing our chances of making errors on the job
- Increasing mental alertness and reducing fatigue.
But in order to gain the full benefits of power napping, you need to know how to do it right.
What’s the best way to power nap?
Pick the right time and duration
You need to be organised when arranging a power nap. It’s recommended that you schedule your nap for the same time everyday in order to train your body to fall asleep easily at that time of day. Between 1 and 3pm is when we tend to experience a natural dip in energy, making this prime nap time. Set your alarm for between 15 and 20 minutes. Ensure your power nap isn’t too close to your usual bed time, though, as this could hinder the quality of sleep at night.
Find the optimum environment
By creating a sleep-friendly environment, you increase your chances of actually falling asleep during your designated nap-time. Find a quiet, dark environment at a comfortable temperature, preferably around 18 degrees centigrade. This will give you the most beneficial setting when to comes to trying to catch a few daytime Z’s.
Silence your mind
Training your body to power nap can lead to some mental resistance, as we typically train our bodies to stay awake throughout the afternoon no matter how tired we feel. You may spend your first few naps simply lying awake, but even this can be restorative. Close your eyes and take deep breaths in order to calm your mind. Eventually, you’ll have no trouble falling asleep.
Consider a coffee first
It may sound strange, but a pre-nap coffee can help you feel even more refreshed when you wake up. It typically takes around 20 minutes for your body to absorb caffeine, which is also the length of time you should be aiming to nap for. Consequentially, the caffeine will work its way into your system while you sleep, helping to rouse you after your allotted nap time and helping you to feel extra alert when you wake up.