There are plenty of health benefits when it comes to taking a power nap. Still, some of the questions I hear a lot and have often wondered myself are: what exactly is the correct amount of time for a power nap and when is the best time to do it, and does it benefit me in the long run?
Throughout this guide, I will look into all the benefits, do’s and don’ts before sleep, and the correct ways to take a power nap to ensure you get the most out of your sleep without taking away from sleeping during the night.
An Overview of a Power Nap
A power nap basically means a short burst of sleep which you would have when you start to feel drowsy during the day, not a complete rest, but enough to re-energize you enough to continue your day.
It doesn’t even have to be actual sleep; it could be simply sitting or lying in a comfortable position and closing your eyes for a short time.
When we are asleep, we go through four stages of sleep, three of those stages: NREM (non-rapid movement) and the final stage is REM (rapid eye movement). During a power nap, an individual may experience deep, restorative sleep if they’re exhausted or lighter sleep if they’re well rested.
A power nap is meant to be very short; otherwise, it can have adverse effects, meaning you want to avoid slipping into the third stage of NREM sleep. If you do, then you are in a deeper stage of sleep, which can lead to you waking up feeling more tired, disorientated, and groggy.
The Science Behind a Power Nap
How long you nap is detrimental to how adequate your slumber will be, you need to keep it short to get the re-energizing effect from it. So if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep the night before, it might be best to skip your power nap, as you risk falling into a deep sleep, which may result in another bad night’s sleep, starting a vicious cycle, and leading to insomnia and other sleep problems.
So to put it simply, either you need to sleep for 15-20 minutes, which is when you’ll be reaching stage 2 of NREM sleep. By doing this, you will wake up feeling renewed and refreshed, or you need to have a full sleep cycle of 90 minutes.
After completing an entire sleep cycle, your cognitive abilities and mindful creativity will be enhanced. But be careful that if you’re going to have a full 90 minutes, you’re in a quiet and comfortable sleeping position. If you get woken up during a complete cycle nap, you run the risk of waking up drowsy and irritable.
When is The Best Time to Have a Power Nap?
It would be best if you were always sure to plan your nap time between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. If you wake up any later than 3 ‘o’clock in the afternoon, then there is a high chance that you will struggle to get to sleep later that night, which will, of course, have a knock-on effect the following day.
Plus, this time is perfect because it will usually be around 7 or 8 hours after you have woken up unless you work shifts, in which case you will have to adjust your nap times according to the hours you wake up.
The reason we often feel sleepy after being awake for 7 or 8 hours is down to something called our Circadian Rhythm. It is our internal body clock that regulates our sleeping patterns, as well as our body temperature and blood pressure.
What Are The Health Benefits of a Power Nap?
There are many plus sides to taking a power nap halfway through the day when you’re feeling exhausted or want to enhance your performance in work or activities for the rest of the afternoon.
Having a power nap has also proven to be beneficial when it comes to your long-term and short-term memory, as well as improving your immunity. Below I have put together a more in-depth list of all the health benefits that can stem from power napping.
1. Lower Risk of Heart Disease
According to recent research, having a power nap during the day can reduce your stress levels and minimize exhaustion. It will help in your general heart health. Studies have shown that napping once or twice weekly will lower your risk of strokes and heart attacks.
2. Enhanced Performance and Higher Energy Levels
Sometimes, you might find that you are halfway through the day, and it has started to feel like someone has taken your batteries out. If this is the case, then a power nap can be highly beneficial in helping you get through the exhaustion. Once you’ve had a 20-minute nap, you will likely find that you can function fully again and focus better on the rest of your tasks.
3. Stress Relief And Improved Immune System
As well as lowering your blood pressure, it has also been proven that a power nap can reduce stress levels and boost your immune system. If you have had a poor night’s sleep the previous night, then having a nap can restore your general immune health within 30 minutes.
4. Improved Learning Skills And Memory
According to some studies, taking a power nap a few times a week can give you an advantage when it comes to your memory and your ability to take in information. This is because the sleep spindles that your body produces while in stage 2 of NREM sleep enhance the performance of cognitive functions.
Top Tips For An Effective Power Nap
1. Avoiding Disruption
It is essential that when having a power nap, you are not surrounded by anything that can distract you. As you only have a short amount of time to get the most out of your nap, delaying falling asleep can lead to you oversleeping, which could mean you wake up too late or disturb your sleep schedule for the evening. Make sure you’re in a quiet space and use items such as headphones or eye masks to ensure no light or sound can prevent you from dozing off.
2. Finding The Right Place to Nap
You want to ensure that wherever you choose to have your mid-day sleep is somewhere comfortable and quiet. But, I wouldn’t advise getting into bed for your nap or anywhere overly comfortable because this can mean that it will be harder for you to wake up and return to your tasks.
Some offices now actually offer a space where their employees can go to get a quick nap on their breaks, as they realize that this can help enhance their performance at work, but if you don’t have this luxury, try getting in your car for that quick 20 minutes nap and be sure to set your alarm.
3. Drinking Coffee
Now this one might surprise you, but research has proven that drinking coffee right before you have a nap can boost your productivity and energy levels. This is because coffee acts like adenosine, a chemical neuromodulator that can make the body feel tired.
When you nap after a cup of coffee, it removes the adenosine and allows the caffeine to do its job correctly, boosting your alertness and stimulating your ability to function.
If you are going to try the caffeine nap, I suggest you do so earlier in the afternoon so that you don’t interfere with your evening sleep routine.
This is also not recommended for anyone suffering from stress or anxiety as it can cause an increased heart rate.
When Shouldn’t You Take a Power Nap?
As with everything, power naps may not be suitable for everyone. For example, if you suffer from disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia, taking a nap during the day will further disrupt your sleep at night.
Another time that it would be a bad idea to take a power nap is late in the day. As you can imagine, sleeping close to your normal bedtime could interrupt your sleep schedule, meaning that you are likely to struggle to get to sleep at night or may wake up multiple times through the night.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Power Nap
How can I make sure my power nap only lasts 20 minutes?
Plan your nap beforehand, tell yourself what time you are going to take a nap, and be ready to get comfortable at that time.
Make sure you have an alarm to wake up before you close your eyes so you can avoid oversleeping, and don’t fret too much if you don’t fall asleep; if this is new to you, it can take some time before you get into the swing of things.
Even if you don’t manage to fall asleep, sitting quietly, relaxing, and closing your eyes can also be beneficial.
Can I take a power nap at work?
Yes. It has been clinically proven that having a power nap halfway through your working day benefits your work performance. It can increase your focus and improve your alertness.
How long is the perfect power nap?
Experts say your power nap should last either 20 minutes or 90 minutes. After 20 minutes, you have reached stage 2 of NREM sleep and will feel refreshed when you wake up.
If you sleep for 90 minutes, you will have undergone a complete sleep cycle, meaning that your focus will have improved, and you will be re-energized and able to carry on with your day.
- Neuromodulator and Emotion Biomarker for Stress Induced Mental Disorders (hindawi.com)