Imagine a busy day at the office, about an hour or so after lunch, and you start to feel a powerful surge of sleep coming on. What would you do? Most people head to the restroom, splash some cold water on their face and go straight to the break room for a cup of hot coffee.
Experts now believe that there is a better option than that cup of coffee — a power nap. A short nap can offer benefits that no cup of coffee can provide. It can help improve memory, creativity, energy and even cognitive functioning.
Why Do We Need a Nap?
The main reason why most people feel drowsy and lethargic in the afternoon is sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep is a common problem these days and it is widespread among people of all ages.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night to function efficiently. Unfortunately, studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 40 million adults get fewer than six hours of sleep per night and this lack of sleep accumulates over time to cause severe sleep deprivation and related issues.
Another reason for afternoon drowsiness is our unhealthy eating habits. We have all heard of and experienced energy dips in the afternoon — lack of protein and fiber and an excess of carbohydrates and sugar in our lunches can cause this dip.
Experts also believe that the bout of sleep that hits some in the afternoon could be a result of the body’s circadian rhythm: the sleep-wake cycle of the body. Whether caused by sleep deprivation or by the biological clock, our bodies are often left yearning for a quick shut-eye in the afternoon. And, that’s why we should explore the benefits of a quick power nap.
A Power Nap and Its Benefits
Most of us are at our peak alertness in the morning and are able to get important tasks done effectively during this time. But the afternoon hours see a steady decline in our cognitive functions. Sleep experts and fans of a power nap claim that even a short nap of 15 to 20 minutes could have a big impact on the body by boosting alertness and productivity.
Haven’t you noticed how young children tend to nap in the afternoons and wake up revived and full of energy? The same concept applies to adults too. A short nap helps the body and mind revive from all the work done before lunch.
What nap style would you prefer?
Sleep experts categorize naps into three types, based on their duration. They are:
- 15-20 minute power naps, which can improve alertness and skills like typing
- 30-60 minute sessions that might improve decision-making skills and memory
- 60-90 minute sessions of rapid eye movement (REM) might help solve creative problems successfully
Benefits of a nap:
- Repair cell damage caused by sleep deprivation
- Boost testosterone levels and increase the ability to burn fat and build muscle
- Relieve stress, reduce the risk of heart ailments and enhance immunity
- Improved mood and cognitive functioning
- Reduced irritability in older adults
Having been introduced to the benefits of napping, here are a few tips to experience a good nap:
- Coordinate your nap time with your coffee break. Drinking your coffee before your 20-minute nap will help the caffeine kick in on time to provide the required energy to last the rest of your workday.
- Keep an alarm and wake up within half an hour, to be fresh and alert. It might also help to take a quick walk outside or wash your face with cold water.
- Nap in a dark room, whenever possible, or have a sleep mask on hand. Some even recommend napping while sitting upright, to help avoid going into a deep slumber.
- Have a regular nap routine, preferably between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. After a few sessions, your body will get used to the practice and will be ready to doze off as soon as you hit the pillow or shut your eyes.
Now that the advantages of a power nap have been established, the only thing left to do is to find out if your manager is OK with you taking a quick nap in the middle of a busy workday.
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Miller, T. (2013, June 24). The Science of the Perfect Nap. Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/5950732/the-science-of-the-perfect-nap
Soong, J. (n.d.). The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps#1
Pinola, M. (2013, December 16). How Long to Nap for the Biggest Brain Benefits. Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/how-long-to-nap-for-the-biggest-brain-benefits-1251546669
Robbins, M. (2015, April 29). Power Nap Like a Pro. Retrieved from https://sleep.org/articles/what-is-a-power-nap/