When we were toddlers in kindergarten, they would force us to take naps during nap time. Somehow, getting older meant ditching mid-day naps, and most of us feel guilty when we nap during the day, feeling like we wasted time.
People are becoming more aware of how important sleep really is for our well-being. Still, power naps aren't yet as popular as they should be. It doesn't matter if you're a toddler or a high-achieving CEO; a power nap will definitely boost your energy and make you more productive.
Without quality sleep, we wouldn't be able to learn anything. Our immune system would go crazy, along with our hormones, and we are putting ourselves at an increased risk of various health conditions. While a power nap surely won't completely reverse the dangers of inadequate sleep, it will most definitely help decrease some of the damage done by a bad night's sleep.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Even though everyone is different, research has confirmed that most people need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Sleeping for less than 6 hours increases our risk of injury and health problems. Keep in mind that you might be able to function perfectly normally by sleeping less than the prescribed number of hours.
One bad night of sleep probably won't ruin your life, but when a lack of quality sleep turns chronic, you can expect certain effects. These include a decrease in reaction time, short-term memory, performance, patience, judgment, information processing, an increase in stress, and more.
How Can Power Naps Help?
A quick power nap can definitely increase your performance even if you aren't chronically fatigued and sleep-deprived.
The short-term effects include a mood boost, a boost in focus, memory, and alertness.
And if that wasn't enough to convince you, studies have shown that long-term effects include improved long-term memory, a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and increased creativity.
It also seems that napping can boost your immune system and reduce chronic stress, leading to better overall health down the line.
Napping can be great for people whose work requires hours of uninterrupted focus.
The Ideal Napping Protocol
The length of a perfect power nap is debated amongst scientists. Some say that anything up to 90 minutes is good, while others claim that napping for longer than 30 minutes may lead to cardiovascular disease in the long run. In order to play it safe, you can limit your naps to the half-hour mark.
Another important thing to take into consideration is something called sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is basically the transitional phase between sleeping and being wide awake. It's the moment where you're still sleepy from sleeping and might blurt out something you don't actually mean. Longer naps can cause longer sleep inertia, meaning you'll feel groggy for a longer time.
It's not advised to take naps too close to your actual bedtime, as it can mess up your sleep schedule and make it hard to fall asleep that day. The best time for napping is generally from 12 pm to 4 pm, as that's when we will naturally start to feel tired.
In order to fall asleep faster, you can try to set up your sleeping space in order to optimize sleep. For example, the noise should be reduced, the room should be darkened, and the bed should obviously be comfy. If you can't really control the noise in your environment, you can give earplugs a go, or maybe even play some white noise in the background.
Non-Sleep Deep Rest
A term coined by Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist, and professor at Stanford University, non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) techniques aim to relax, reduce stress, improve learning, and even help fall asleep faster.
The most popular NSDR protocol is called Yoga Nidra. That literally means Yoga Sleep. It's basically guided meditation led by an instructor. During guided meditation, the instructor sequentially shifts your focus onto different body parts, entering a state of calm.
Self-hypnosis is also a valuable NSDR technique, which can be done with an app called Reveri. Proven to relieve stress and anxiety, manage pain, and improve sleep, it's worth a shot.
Sleep vs. Power Naps
While power naps are cool and provide many health benefits, they shouldn't be used as a crutch. Replacing good old, quality deep sleep is not possible. Instead, napping is a tool that allows us to optimize our productivity and maybe help mitigate some effects of a poor night's sleep.