The Power of Naps
More and more people are making power naps a regular part of their routine, setting an alarm for a short snooze. This phenomenon goes back to the siesta custom, the mid-day nap which is especially popular in Spanish-speaking nations. But is taking a daytime nap a good idea or isn’t it? And if it’s healthy to nap in the afternoon, when’s the best time to take a power nap? This article answers these questions.
Is it healthy to take a power nap?
Taking a nap in the afternoon certainly seems to have health benefits, for younger as well as older people. Power naps give you a quick energy boost and reduce the desire for caffeine to keep you alert. People who take a power nap every day find that they need less coffee to keep them going. It resets the system, giving the body and mind a burst of alertness. In addition, power naps also boost memory. A NASA study found that a short power nap can improve alertness, creativity and mental performance. Professional athletes, such as those in the NBA, regularly take afternoon naps to prepare for games.
However, daytime naps should not take the place of a good night’s sleep. Just think of them as something extra. If you’re tired during the day because you’re not getting enough sleep at night, going to bed earlier at night rather than napping during the day would be better.
How long to nap for the biggest benefits?
The best power naps are short, lasting up to 20 minutes. Even five-minute naps can improve memory. If you nap any longer you run the risk of developing ‘sleep inertia’ – that unpleasant groggy feeling that takes a considerable amount of time to shake off. Long naps during the day can also damage a good sleep rhythm and keep you from enjoying a full night’s sleep. So don’t rest any longer than 20 minutes, even if you don’t fall asleep right away. Even if you’re not fully asleep, your mind and body are resting. And if you nap on a regular basis, your body will become accustomed to it and you’ll be able to fall asleep easier. Just don’t forget to set an alarm. You don’t want to wake up only to discover that you’ve slept through the afternoon!
If you’re wondering if naps are wasted time, then the answer is no. After a power nap, your mind snaps into action and you can get more done in less time. So the time you spend napping is less than the time you would have wasted being awake.
What’s the best time for a nap?
A good time for a power nap is early in the afternoon, around 1.00 p.m. The best time to nap seems to be when we experience the ‘post-lunch dip’, which most of us get. Use this time to recharge, so that you can get back to work feeling energised. Don’t nap late in the afternoon. Napping later than 4.00 p.m. makes it more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime, and can disrupt your regular nighttime sleep and throw off your natural biorhythm.