Is it really good to take a nap?
More and more people seem to be taking to the idea of ‘power-napping’ with some companies even going so far as to install napping stations while some universities are trying to vote them in!1 For the majority of us though, being caught dozing off at our desks would probably lead to a disciplinary hearing or a sharp word at best.
Is power napping the way forward though? There certainly does seem to be an argument for it and research does seem to lean in favour. As the National Sleep Foundation puts it, 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep for short periods at a time. Humans are normally counted in the minority category, but it’s still unclear whether this is correct.2
Children and the elderly frequently nap during the day and some cultures do seem to embrace a good afternoon snooze. In Spain, many shops do close for a couple of hours during the afternoon for siesta, and in China it’s a considered a constitutional right that workers are allowed to break after lunch and rest for an hour.3
And there might be some benefits to this line of thinking. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science, a post-lunch power nap may improve your mental performance and alertness.4 A study conducted by NASA also boasted similar findings, stating that a 26 minute nap was able to improve performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.5
So a quick power nap in the afternoon may actually improve your performance at work, but what about other areas of your health?
Well some studies report that napping can lower your stress levels too! This makes sense when you think about it – I don’t know about you, but I always feel a bit more frazzled when I’m running low on sleep. Apparently napping can help to lower tension, which not only decreases your stress levels but also lowers your risk of heart disease!6
Finally, the last titbit about the benefits of napping I will be sharing with you concerns caffeine. If you find yourself feeling a bit drowsier during the day, the chances are you place your trust in a mid-morning cup of tea or coffee. However, some research has indicated that a well-timed nap can make more of a difference than cuppa!
The study, published in the Nature Neuroscience Journal, concluded that a power nap that lasts between 10-30 minutes might be more effective than a cup of coffee.7This is because napping for short periods of time does not have the same side-effects associated with coffee. Any form of caffeine inevitably leads to a crash whereas as napping for the right amount of time, should leave you feeling refreshed for the whole day!
How long should I take a nap for?
It should go without saying that napping through the day will not restore any lost sleep at night and I would not advise napping during the day if you suffer from insomnia. It’s also important to note that it’s the length of the nap that really matters.
Napping for too long can have an adverse effect on your health. If you sleep for too long and enter deep sleep, your body expects to complete a normal sleep cycle. When you then wake yourself up, this can result in sleep inertia and make you feel more tired than you initially did before your nap.
Not only that, sleep for too long during the day and it will affect your sleep patterns at night, resulting in more episodes of insomnia. Some studies even suggest that napping too long during the day may make you more predisposed towards diabetes!8
So how long should you be napping for? Most sources suggest that the ideal power nap should be somewhere between 10-20 minutes, and certainly no longer than 60 minutes!
How do you take the perfect power nap?
Ideally, if you are planning to take a quick power nap during the day, I’d consider taking it in the afternoon, sometime between 1-3pm. If you nap any later than this, there’s a chance it may upset your sleep pattern during the night.
However, this is a general guide based on the idea that you will normally be getting up around 6-8am in the morning. If you are involved with shift work, the times that you get up and go to bed at may vary so some adjustment may be needed.
The next thing you will need to consider is timing. Remember that it’s important not to nap for too long; otherwise you might end up entering a deep sleep phase which will only result in you feeling more groggy and sluggish when you wake up. Ideally aim for about 20 minutes of snooze time. Set an alarm to make sure you don’t overdo it and try to sleep in a slightly upright position – this should help to decrease your chances of falling into a deep sleep.
Of course, for most of you, the idea of being immediately able to fall asleep probably sounds less plausible than riding a unicorn on your daily commute. This is why I’d recommend modifying your environment. If you are napping at home, opt for your couch instead of your bed and make sure the room temperature isn’t too hot or too cold.
Try to block out or reduce any bright lights or noise and consider deep breathing techniques if you are struggling to relax. Don’t worry if you find it difficult to fall asleep the first few times – in the beginning you might be conscious of your time limit or feel guilty about resting during the day. After some practice though, eventually you’ll become more adjusted to the routine.
Once you have woken up from your nap, I’d recommend stepping outside for five minutes. The fresh air can be very stimulating, not to mention it may give your body a chance to soak up more vitamin D, an excellent nutrient when it comes to brain development and immune function!
Although napping can be a quick way to perk you up during the day, it’s important to remember what I said earlier. If you are suffering from insomnia or sleep deprivation, napping is not a solution to your sleep problems. Instead, you will need to regulate your sleep patterns at night, sometimes by changing certain aspects of your lifestyle or diet.
I’d recommend trying our natural sleep remedy Dormeasan if you are experiencing problems sleeping at night. Prepared using extracts of fresh valerian and hops, this remedy should gently balance your sleep patterns and ensure you get a well-earned night of rest. Better yet, Dormeasan will not display any of the drowsy side-effects associated with traditional sleep medicines, meaning you will wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested.