How To Power Nap

By Mitchell Tollsen
Last Updated On June 17th, 2020

Power naps can give you great benefits. You sleep for a few minutes and gain a burst of alertness, energy, and efficiency that lasts for hours. If you ever feel…

How To Power Nap

Power naps can give you great benefits. You sleep for a few minutes and gain a burst of alertness, energy, and efficiency that lasts for hours. If you ever feel sluggish and lethargic midday, a quick 20-minute nap can rescue you.

Gone are the days when naps used to be a part of a preschooler’s routine. Now, power naps are being incorporated even in the corporate world because studies show they effectively boost performance. In this article, we discuss how to power nap and the benefits of this quick daytime nap.

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What is a Power Nap?

A power nap is a short period of daytime sleep, enough to rejuvenate you when you feel exhausted. Sleeping or even resting for a short while when you feel tired in the middle of the day makes you more patient, reduces stress, increases efficiency, and improves your overall health.

Power naps are meant to be short that you wake up before entering the deep sleep stage of SWS (slow-wave sleep). Our sleep is divided into four stages, including the first three stages of NREM type sleep and the last stage of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. We go through all the four stages of NREM and REM sleep in each sleep cycle. Each sleep cycle lasts for about 90 minutes.

During nighttime sleep, we need to experience four to six sleep cycles to feel well-rested enough, but a power nap is restricted to the first two stages of sleep in the first cycle. If you slip into the third stage of sleep, then you enter the deeper stages of sleep. Waking up in this stage makes you groggy and disoriented, so short naps are ideal for power napping.

How to Power Nap

The goal of a power nap is to make the most of a brief shut-eye period on a busy day. Longer naps can not only leave you feeling groggy but can also affect your nighttime sleep quality. In fact, we don’t recommend power naps for those who struggle to fall asleep at night. Take a short nap only if you feel tired during the day. Here are a few simple rules to help you power nap effectively:

Time the Duration of Your Nap

The duration of your nap is crucial in determining its effectiveness. During power naps, you transition from NREM stage 1 to NREM stage 2 and wake up before slipping into NREM stage 3.

The NREM stage 1 lasts 5 to 10 minutes, comprising the shift between wakefulness and sleep. In NREM stage 2, lasting about 20 minutes, your body temperature drops, heart rate begins to slow, and your brain produces sleep spindles.

Spindles play an essential role in processing and consolidating memories. By setting an alarm for 15 to 20 minutes, you reap the benefits of sleep spindles and wake up with renewed energy to complete your day’s work.

If you have enough time to complete one full sleep cycle, then set an alarm for 90 minutes of sleep. Completing a full cycle of sleep enhances your cognitive performance and creativity, but be careful to not wake up anytime in between. You either sleep for 15 to 20 minutes or a full sleep cycle of 90 minutes to make the most of your nap time.

Plan Your Nap Time Between 1 to 3 PM

Plan your nap time after lunch between 1 to 3 pm because waking up any later than 3 pm can disrupt your nighttime sleep. It’s normal for most people to feel sleepy 7 to 8 hours after they wake up or after having a meal, making it the best time for a quick snooze.

Power Nap

We feel sleepy due to a natural dip in our circadian rhythm during this time of the day. Circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock regulating a healthy sleep-wake cycle through physiological changes, such as body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Find the Right Place to Nap

If you are working from home then this is easy. Choose any comfortable spot, but ensure it’s not too comfortable, otherwise you won’t feel like waking up and getting back to work.

Many corporations are recognizing the importance of power naps so they have introduced nap pods or nap rooms to their offices. Employees can take a short nap and resume work with increased efficiency. If your office doesn’t have a dedicated space for a nap, consider napping in your car.

Avoid Distractions

Use headphones and eye masks to block out noise and light. Avoid any distractions during a power nap because you have only 15 to 20 minutes to make the most of this shut-eye period. Distractions during this time will delay sleep onset, making you late in getting back to work. A delayed nap can also affect your nighttime sleep, crucial for your overall health.

You May have Coffee Before the Nap

Gulping down a cup of coffee just before power napping can enhance your productivity. Coffee takes some time to start showing its effects, maybe around 20 minutes. Napping during this time wakes you up with double the energy. You feel energized due to the nap as well as the stimulating effect of coffee.

Coffee naps prove effective because napping naturally clears adenosine from the brain. Adenosine is a chemical neuromodulator, which when accumulated in high quantities makes the body feel tired. Structurally, caffeine is like adenosine and it has to compete with adenosine to find space in the brain cell receptors for a stimulating effect.

By napping, you remove adenosine out of way, allowing caffeine to stimulate you more. If you drink coffee before a power nap, take it before 2 pm and gulp it down fast so you have time to nap before the effect of caffeine starts showing.

Benefits of Power Nap

Power naps give you a much-needed shut-eye period in the middle of the day. By power napping, you experience short term results such as an increased level of energy, as well as long term gains like improved memory and immunity.

Enhances Energy Levels

When you are way too tired to continue with work in the middle of the afternoon, a short nap helps you overcome your exhaustion. You resume work with more energy, helping you focus better and enhance your productivity.

Improves Memory

According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, even a short episode of sleep is enough to improve your memory and learning skills. The sleep spindles produced during NREM stage 2 enhance your cognitive performance by consolidating memories.

Can Lower the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Power napping reduces stress and eliminates exhaustion, which promotes heart health as well. Recent research shows napping once or twice a week can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Boosts Immunity

Catering to the midday sleep needs of your body can boost your immunity as well. A 2015 study shows power napping reverses some of the adverse effects on immunity, caused by nighttime sleep deprivation.

FAQs

How long should you power nap for?

A 20-minute power nap is best for your body and mind. You wake up feeling more alert and refreshed. Sleeping more than 20 minutes can make you feel sluggish, groggy, and more tired than before you napped, but if you have time, you may sleep for 90 minutes to complete a full sleep cycle. You either sleep for 20 minutes or 90 minutes to avoid waking up from a deep sleep stage. Usually, people don’t have 90 minutes for an afternoon nap, so 20-minute power naps have become the order of the day.

Is power napping good for you?

Yes, power napping is good for you because it allows you to rest for some time, shedding the built-up exhaustion of the day. It reduces your stress, improves your mood, alertness, memory, and overall health. When power napping, ensure you wake up before 3 pm because sleeping any later than that can lead to poor sleep at night.

How can I nap for 20 minutes?

Set an alarm before you settle down for a power nap. Don’t stress if you can’t fall asleep within this time. Power napping is a skill and it takes some practice to train yourself to do it. You will feel relaxed even if you didn’t fall asleep during these 20 minutes. A brief period of shut-eye also helps us de-stress.

Is a 2-hour nap too long?

Yes, a 2-hour nap can delay sleep onset at night and affect sleep quality. Power naps are ideally 15 to 20 minutes long, and if you have the time, you can sleep for 90 minutes (1.5 hours) to complete a full sleep cycle. Sleeping for 2 hours will make you feel disoriented because you’ll wake up while transitioning to the deep sleep stage of your second sleep cycle.

Can everyone take power naps?

Power naps are not meant for everyone. We recommend taking power naps only if you feel tired in the middle of the afternoon. Those who struggle to fall asleep at night or have insomnia should not take power naps, because it can lead to poor nighttime sleep.

Conclusion

You feel the need for a power nap if you don’t get 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night, but power naps cannot be a replacement for insufficient nighttime sleep. Power naps can help you with a burst of energy to continue with the day’s work, but it cannot compensate for the damage to your overall health due to less nighttime sleep. In fact, the effects of a power nap are better when you get adequate sleep at night as well.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.


About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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