A power nap is a short nap taken during the day to increase one’s energy. Also known as a “cat nap” to some older generations, these short periods of sleep are meant to be taken between regular daily activities instead of at night. Many say that these power naps increase a host of different skills needed to make afternoon slumps into times of great productivity. So what are the benefits of power naps, and do they really work?
Where does the concept come from?
Some may say that power naps are just something that people do to be lazy. These types of people may be surprised to know that a power nap has real medical benefits. In fact, “power nap” is a genuine healthcare term to begin with! It was coined by James Maas, a social psychologist from the Ivy League school Cornell University.
The idea behind a power nap is that one can get all of the benefits of sleep without sacrificing time. It is not meant to be a replacement for nightly sleep, as the cycle that one’s body goes through during an eight hour period of rest is completely different and more thoroughly refreshing than a brief nap during the day. However, power naps can be a great way to gain enough energy to get through the day.
For some, they can also be a way to sleep better at night. Becoming “over tired” as a result of sleep deprivation makes it harder to fall asleep after a certain amount of hours of great fatigue. This is a survival mechanism that helped our early ancestors to stay awake during long hunting trips when sleep was simply not an option. Power naps keep this harmful process from happening to us today.
What are the benefits of power naps?
- They provide an alternative to caffeine, which comes with a myriad of different health issues. Caffeine can causes nervousness, shaking hands, addiction, headaches, and sleeplessness at night. Power naps are a great alternative because they are just as refreshing but come from natural means.
- Better decision making skills
- A burst of alertness
- Power naps can be a solution for sleep deprivation
- Easier to get through the day
- Fine motor skills become better. These fine motor skills can lend themselves to new skills such as the playing of a musical instrument, or increased word count when typing.
- Stress reduction
- Lessened chance of heart disease
- One’s memory becomes better as a result of taking power naps
- Response times are improved. For example, someone who has a ball thrown at them after taking a nap would see the ball faster and be more likely to catch it than someone who had not had a power nap during the day.
- Better right-brain activity, meaning that creativity is boosted. Some neuroscientists firmly believe that this leads to being able to figure out the answers to a problem that one struggles with immediately before starting the nap.
- A more rested left half of one’s brain. This means that technical skills are improved.
How long should a power nap be?
A power nap should typically last no longer than 30 minutes. After that, one’s body may go into deep sleep, and waking up will likely be significantly harder. The benefits of power naps can be lost if one interrupts one’s body from continuing deep sleep. This is referred to as “sleep inertia.”
However, a nap of thirty minutes to an hour is worth a try on days when one doesn’t have to be alert immediately. The only benefit one loses when waking up from a power nap lasting thirty minutes or longer is that of alertness. So for those people whose bodies need a lot more sleep than others, longer power naps can offer exciting benefits. These include an increased sense of creativity.
In any case, a power nap should also not be any shorter than six to seven minutes. Some swear that an even shorter nap will restore their energy—for example, the famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali (you may remember him from his paintings of melting watches) swore by falling asleep in his chair holding a spoon so that the second his body fell asleep and released the spoon he would awake from the clatter. Perhaps it goes without saying that one can usually not fall asleep as soon as one’s head hits the pillow, so a six to seven minute nap can be ideal for those who only have twenty minutes to spare.
How can you get the most out of your power nap?
- Consistency is key. Having a set schedule for nightly sleep and power naps increases the likelihood that one will be able to get to sleep.
- Know your limits. Set an alarm for thirty minutes later unless you are sure you won’t be groggy after getting up.
- Use black out curtains to keep sunlight from getting into the room. This will eliminate sleepless tossing and turning, which can cause stress.
- Do not try power napping for the first time on a day with an important meeting. Some may find that they sleep through their alarm if they have never tried sleeping for a short period of time before.
Who says that power naps are good for health?
The following organizations and universities have conducted studies showing that power naps are good for one’s health:
- Harvard University
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Georgetown University’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging
- The Mayo Clinic
- Texas Brain and Spine Institute
With all of these illustrious institutions celebrating the benefits of power naps, it is hard to discredit the idea! Power naps have been shown to be effective whether the sleeper gets a full eight hours of sleep per night or not. So even if you’re already someone with a regular sleep schedule and healthy circadian rhythms, consider trying power naps as an alternative to caffeine. There’s a reason why some of the top universities have Power Nap clubs for students who want to sleep in bean bag chairs between classes! Power naps have been shown to not only lower the risk of long-term health problem such as heart disease, but increase memory function and generally make the day a lot easier to deal with. The productivity of those who take power naps speaks for itself.
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Category: Natural Sleep Aids