Top 10 Ways to Power Nap Smarter and Better
“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”
- Carrie Snow
What do Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison all have in common? They’ve all made considerable contributions to the advancement of mankind, they’re all distinguished in their respective fields, and they were all avid power nappers.
Napping can be a great way to catch up on sleep, increase productivity and become more creative. By obtaining merely 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon your body and mind will recharge and provide the extra push required to have a successful, productive day.
Naptime is not just for kindergartners. A whole body of research shows that a midday snooze can boost productivity and alertness in the workplace.
But there is some controversy in the best way to take a nap. It may be that different people have different nap styles. I suggest trying some of the napping techniques below and see what works for you.
1. The Odd Couple
Turns out a cup of joe won’t ruin your nap, it will upgrade it. A recent Japanese study found that you can alleviate sleepiness by combining a short snooze with coffee.
Sound counterintuitive? Here’s how it works: caffeine takes about 20-30 minutes to kick in, just enough time for you to nap. That way, if you’ve had a coffee-primed nap, the benefits are twofold: you’ve rested and you’re ready to go when you wake.
The British Transportation Department even provides drivers with the following recommendation to combat driver fatigue: “Stop, drink two cups of coffee or a highly caffeinated drink, then take a short nap.” Think of a nap as a free extra shot in your latte.
2. The Nicest Nap
Sleep experts say that 2 or 3 p.m. is the ideal nap hour — late enough to fit into your natural siesta zone but early enough that it will not interfere with your night sleep. Also take your afternoon schedule into consideration when making nap plans.
If you can, experts recommend taking your mid-afternoon snooze just prior to a big meeting. Dozing right before the meeting will make sure you’re not drifting off during the meeting.
3. Length Does Matter
A good nap length is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. This will give you the restorative benefits of sleep without the lethargy or grogginess — what sleep experts call “sleep drunkenness.” Naps as short as 1 to 2 minutes could be effective for some people.
4. Making the Bed
Some people have difficulty power napping solely because they are in unfamiliar surroundings. While the couch in your office might not be the best place to stop for a power nap, it is certainly adequate. Heading to your parked car is another option — but of course you should make sure a window is open and the engine is not running.
Learn how to control the environment to get the most out of power naps. Turn out all of the lights and close the doors and windows. If there’s lots of noise, plug your ears with cotton balls or rubber ear plugs. You might also want to keep a dark-colored mask with you to block out all light so that nothing disturbs your power nap.
5. Set an Alarm
Chances are, if you’re tired enough to take a nap, you will not magically wake up on your own accord. So set an alarm, both to avoid the grogginess of a long nap and to make sure you don’t sleep through anything important. These days, most people have access to all kinds of alarms. Most cell phones have alarms you can set and you can purchase handy travel alarms.
6. Stop Feeling Guilty
Napping is great for your health and productivity. But even though most of us know this, we often still feel as though we are wasting time. This feeling of guilt only impedes successful power napping. Instead, make an effort to recognize that you’re not being lazy; napping will make you more productive and more alert after you wake up.
7. Calm the Mind
Let go of all thoughts. As thoughts come into your mind, just repeat this gentle reminder to yourself: “Empty the mind!” You may want to switch over to a word of your choosing to focus on (mantra) that will help push out other thoughts.
Examples of words are Peace, Calm, Rest, Empty, Power, Strength, Love. Any word is fine. In fact the word “OMmm” can be helpful because it is not attached to other meanings. Whatever works for you is what is best at that moment!
8. Be Prepared for Grogginess
Sleep is characterised by cycles of light and deep sleep. If you wake up in the middle of a deep sleep, you will feel groggy for 15 to 20 minutes. Try running cold water over your wrists or drinking a soda to wake yourself up. But in most cases — if you sleep for less than 30 minutes — you won’t enter deep sleep. Anyway, experiment to see what works for you.
9. Keep It Consistent
Experts suggest working that 20-minute nap into a particular sleep routine to make it part of your body’s expected circadian rhythm. Just like you go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time every day, you should get into the routine of taking regular naps.
Some days, this won’t be possible, but if you need power naps, organize them into your schedule. Eventually, you’ll start to get sleepy around the time of your power nap and it will become second nature just like going to sleep at night in your bed.
10. Be an Alert Napper
If you always feel the need for a nap, think about your nightly sleep schedule. Are you down to only five or six hours? While a 20-minute nap is a good refresher, it will not make up for hours lost at night.
Conversely, if you’re getting eight hours of sleep each night yet still feel the need to nap, that might be the sign of a sleep disorder, or another health problem, so check with your physician.
If you’d like to be as creative, productive and accomplished as Thomas Edison at work — or if you’d just like to feel better and have more energy in the afternoon and evening — it’s absolutely worth it to give power napping a try.