Have you ever felt amazed when you dozed off just for about 10 minutes in the afternoon and then woke up bright and fully charged up ready to take on the world? You just had a power nap. Such sleep for a short duration is known to re-energize both your body and mind and help you focus and concentrate for the next 5 to 6 hours.
A power nap is a sleep of a very short duration that doesn’t last beyond deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. It normally limits you to the stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, enabling you to remain alert after waking up. The concept of taking a short sleep is very popular in many countries, especially Spanish countries where it is called “afternoon siesta”. Many offices and organizations in European countries allow their employees to take a short nap after lunch to re-energize themselves and get on with their remaining activities.
There is a very interesting anecdote about the great painter Salvador Dali. He used to take his power nap in his chair with one of his arms dangling over the side holding a spoon with a plate placed underneath. The moment he fell asleep, the spoon would fall on the plate and the clatter would wake him up. He was a big fan of this technique of re-energizing himself with a brief power nap.
What should be the duration of a power nap?
It depends. As the above-mentioned Salvador Dali anecdote illustrates, it doesn’t even have to be more than a few minutes. The moment he fell asleep the spoon would fall and the clatter would wake him up. How much time do you think he got for his power nap? Hardly a minute or two.
Many people claim that when they wake up the moment they fall asleep, they feel fresh, alert and full of energy. They experience a marked improvement in their concentration, creativity and retention.
The ideal time for a power nap is around 10 minutes. Beyond that, for example 30 minutes can make you groggy for a while. A sleep of 60 minutes no longer remains within the realms of power napping and it is normally taken by those people who haven’t been getting good sleep at night.
Nonetheless, there are different benefits associated with different durations of a power nap. A 10-20-minute sleep is good for alertness. Catching a few blinks for more than 20 but less than 30 minutes boosts your memory and enhances creativity. If you want to improve your decision-making then you need a longer nap of 60-90 minutes. But these are just theoretical speculations. In a busy schedule, you should mostly focus on 10-20-minute power nap.
In fact many people believe that a power nap can be a good substitute for people who can’t get enough sleep due to whatever reason. Experts have gone to the extent of advising people to have a series of power naps of 10-20 minutes instead of getting a full night’s sleep, although not much research has been done on this.
How to take a power nap
You don’t need to lie under your quilt in a comfy bed. All you need is a comfortable place where you can simply recline in such a manner that you don’t fall even if you let your body completely lose. Some people can doze off in a moving train, in a restaurant or in an office but some require a quiet place. If your office chair is comfortable, you can even use that.
If you’re driving a car and you’re feeling really tired and you need to take a quick nap, park your car somewhere safe, completely shut off the engine and put on the handbrake. You can roll up the windows if you don’t feel safe. Set your phone alarm to 15 minutes and then go off to sleep.
The ideal time for a power nap is in the afternoon when you have spent a good part of the day working hard and you have just had lunch. Your body needs energy to digest your lunch and this is a time when less energy is sent to the brain making you lethargic and sleep-prone.
If you find it hard to take a power nap under bright lights, you can wear dark glasses over your eyes or you can simply put your handkerchief on them.
Consuming caffeine just before taking your power nap can be highly beneficial according to some studies. This is also called a caffeine nap. Although caffeine is supposed to make you alert, the effect takes around 40 minutes to kick in so if you are feeling sleepy and you have caffeine you are not immediately going to feel re-energized. People recommend that just when you are about to finish your cup set your alarm to 15 minutes and go to sleep immediately after finishing your coffee.
Finally the basic idea is developing a schedule. You may not succeed at power napping in the beginning. You will have to learn by hit-and-trial. Give yourself at least a week before you can have a power nap that really re-energizes you. In the meantime make sure you
- Find yourself a good, comfortable and peaceful spot for your power nap
- Make sure that you sleep for just 10-20 minutes and there is some mechanism that wakes you up
- Have your power nap in the afternoon because after lunch you normally feel drowsy and sleepy because your body is busy digesting the food
- Cover your eyes so that the lighting around you doesn’t disturb you
- Play some soothing music if that can be arranged
- Avoid getting too comfortable