While it's not a new concept (I've seen many a Mad Men with Donald Draper casually snoozing on the couch) the 'power nap' has been gaining major acceptance in the corporate community recently due to its proven benefits to health and productivity. No more must you hide in your office, ashamed to catch a wink or two rather than suffer the shakes from a third cup of coffee. Major corporations like Google and Apple have set the bar by creating nap spaces and encouraging employees to use them when needed.
Although naps are proven to be so profoundly beneficial, they have also been heavily stigmatized over the years. Some believe that they are only for lazy people, babies, the ill, and the elderly. To that, we say: you're missing out!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, naps restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes.
NASA did a study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts and discovered that a 40 minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.
Over and above the performance enhancement and improved alertness, napping also helps to reduce stress and lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
The benefits are incredible for something that seems so simple.
Why do we need them?
Obviously, right? Tiredness is a product of many variables. Did you get up too early or earlier than usual? Did you stay up later than you should have? Was your quality of sleep poor? Did you oversleep? Are you feeling a little under the weather? Are you physically exhausted from exercise? Did you have a few drinks the night before? Are you feeling stressed? There are countless reasons why you could feel tired and rundown.
Diet can be a very touchy thing. If you haven't eaten enough, by midday your blood sugar may take a bit of a dive, making you feel tired. Or, conversely, if you have a heavy lunch, you may be craving a post-lunch siesta.
Most mammals (over 85%) are polyphasic sleepers. This means that they sleep for a short amounts of time, several intervals in a 24 hour period.
Humans are in the minority as monophasic sleepers. This means that, for us, a 24 hour day is divided into two separate periods that are completed independently from each other, rarely broken up: one for sleep and one for wakefulness. For example, if you wake up at 7:30a.m., you remain awake all day until you go to bed at 11:30p.m.. Compared to sleep habits of our fellow mammals, I can see how this seems like a very long time to be awake all in one stretch.
The longer you're awake, the harder it is to focus, take in new information, respond, and formulate new ideas. By allowing your body to rest, you are likely to wake up sharper, more alert, and have a better memory than you did when you were tired.
5. Naps VS Coffee
You may be thinking: why should I take time out of my day to nap if I can just have a coffee instead to wake myself up? To that, we ask you, if you have 20 minutes which would you really prefer? A nap genuinely refreshes and recharges your body AND has a long-lasting and all-encompassing effect on how you feel. Caffeine, although we love it, has more of a hard-and-fast effect. It provides an artificial feeling of alertness, but doesn't actually improve your overall condition. Next time you feel your attention and alertness fading, try a power nap instead of a cup of coffee and realize the fantastic benefits.
Follow our 3 Golden Rules of Napping for the perfect power nap
- Give yourself 15-30 minutes at the most to nap. If you nap too long, you can wake up feeling groggy, which totally defeats the purpose of the power nap. So, set an alarm.
- Don't nap late in the day as it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at 'bedtime'. A good rule of thumb is not to nap when the sun has gone down unless you plan on having an extra late night or you are feeling ill.
- Try not to put pressure on yourself to hurry up and get to sleep for your nap. Thinking, "I have to nap right now between 2:20p.m. and 2:40p.m. or else..." won't work. Try to relax. Mindful meditation is very helpful for this.
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