Recharge Your Batteries with a Power Nap

Many of us consider an afternoon power nap to be slightly suspect . Naps, we imagine, are for toddlers and the elderly, the ill and the lazy. While we might claim to love the possibility of a nap, we might consider ourselves far too busy/productive/useful to partake on a regular basis. I have just finished napping for five days in a row, and researching the nap when I wake up. Let’s talk about why you should consider taking a nap today, and how to power nap for the maximum benefit to body and spirit.

Four Types of Naps

There are four kinds of naps, each with their own purpose.

  1. Preparatory Nap –You aren’t sleepy, but you will be out late at the party and you want to be prepared to go the distance.
  2. Emergency Nap –You are on a long-distance drive and suddenly so exhausted you have to pull off the road.
  3. Habitual Nap –It is your routine to take a nap at the same time each day.
  4. Appetitive Nap–You enjoy a nap as a sort of mini-vacation.

Why Should You Nap?

Under the right conditions, naps:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Elevate mood
  • Increase alertness, not only immediately after the nap but for several hours.
  • Improve memory

    The replenishing thing that comes with a nap–you end up with two mornings in a day.

    Pete Hamill
  • Reduce risk of heart disease and heart attack (These findings are only for men. There isn’t enough data about women to make these claims yet.)
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve performance
  • Enhance creativity by allowing your mind to make new associations.
  • Improve reaction times and muscle memory

How Long Should You Nap?

The duration of the nap determines the benefits you might experience.

Duration in Minutes Name Benefits
2-5 Micro Nap Reduce fatigue
5-20 Mini Nap Increase alertness, reaction time, and physical performance. Elevate mood
20-30 Power Nap All of the above plus improve muscle and long-term memory
60-90 Mega Nap All of the above plus enhance creativity

front view of brown headed napping cat with front white legs spread
If you feel groggy and disoriented when you wake, it is usually because you’ve gone into a deep sleep. A power nap of 20-30 minutes is considered optimal, although some experts suggest  that you can push the duration up to 45 minutes. The extra 15 minutes may let you achieve rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is known to enhance creative thinking.

What About the Nano Nap?

The Nano or Hypnagogic nap is measured in seconds, not minutes. While this kind of nap has been around since the time of Aristotle, and several famous artists and inventors swear by it, so far there has been limited scientific research into its benefits.

Hypnagogia describes that state we have all experienced of “dreaming while awake.” It happens in transition times as you are falling asleep and waking up. Since you go through a full sleep cycle several times during a night, there can be many of these hypnagogic moments. They are thought to be incredibly rich moments of creative thought, but in all likelihood you forget them as soon as you are fully awake.

Salvador Dali, Albert Einstein and others have tried to mine the creativity of the hypnagogic state by engaging in Nano naps.  Dali called his naps “Slumber with a Key.” He would sit in a chair and hold a heavy metal key between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. On the floor under that hand, he placed a plate. The second Dali fell asleep, the key would fall, clang the plate, and awaken him. Dali believed that these Nano naps revitalized his entire being, making him a better artist.

When Should You Nap?

Our bodies are programmed to experience one period of intense sleepiness from 2-4 a.m., and another from 1-3 p.m. Within that second time frame, the best time to nap depends on what time you get up in the morning.

No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.

Carrie Snow

If you are a lark, getting up as early as 6 a.m., and going to bed around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., consider napping at 1:00 or 1:30.

If you are an owl, getting up at 8 or 9 a.m., and going to bed around midnight, consider napping at 2:30 or 3:00.

There are two reasons to avoid napping. One is if you consistently have trouble sleeping at night. The other is if you are at work. Unfortunately, only a few enlightened companies allow power naps.

What are the Optimal Conditions for a Power Nap?

Block out the light. Darkness helps you to fall asleep faster.young woman having a power nap one hand behind her head, summer hat covering her face, on a bench in dappled sunlight

If you have the opportunity to nap in a hammock, there is evidence that the slow swinging motion really does help you get to sleep faster.

If you plan to be an habitual napper, try to nap at the same time every day.

Keep the room temperature at 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). Use a light blanket because your body temperature lowers when you sleep.

Some people swear that a caffeinated beverage right before a power nap helps them to be more alert upon waking. It takes 20-30 minutes for the effects of caffeine to be felt, so this makes some sense. However, naps on their own are better than caffeine for improving both memory and motor skills.

Do you nap? If yes, for how long? If no, why not?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

5 comments

  1. Great article! Yes, I do nap when I need to and when it is possible. Sometimes I need a nap but don’t get it because we have to go out or I have to get something done before a certain time.

    When I nap I usually go for an hour but will settle for half an hour if that is all I can get. I have heard about the whole waking up groggy if you go past a certain time and get into a different part of the sleep cycle without being able to complete that cycle.

    I refer to my naps on Facebook as OLN. It is an anagram my friends and I use and it stands for Old Lady Nap. Hahaha. 🙂

    1. Okay, I agree with everything you’ve said except for the OLN! Let’s fight that stereotype of napping only for the elderly! Are you with me? Shall we jump on a soapbox?

      1. You are so right! I claim an indefinite moratorium on the term OLN as of right now. I will no longer refer to my naps as such and will remind others on Facebook, when I see them, of the fight against the stereotype of napping only for the elderly. To the soapbox it is! 🙂

          1. LOL, Karen, I am yawning as I type this response. When you climb down off the soapbox for your nap I will defend to my last breath your right to have one. While you are sleeping I will inform everyone within hearing distance that just because you are napping does not mean you are old. That ANYONE can get tired and need a nap to revive them. So there! 🙂

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