Our culture has some serious misconceptions when it comes to napping.
Most adults associate naps with childhood: They're something kids do and eventually grow out of. Once you reach adulthood, you're expected to stay awake throughout the entire day--even if you're so sleepy that you can't get anything done.
But as more and more research proves, there are some serious holes in that logic. The reality is that a quick power nap can make you a better thinker, worker, and all-around human being. Far from being kids' stuff, naps are serious business . Here's how your productivity can benefit from power napping --plus how to do it right.
The Benefits of Power Napping
Power naps do more than help us catch up on sleep after a night of tossing and turning. They've also been shown to improve cognitive performance in the following ways:
- They facilitate creative problem solving and logical reasoning.
- They boost the capacity for learning.
- They enhance the ability to remember information.
- They improve mood and reduce stress (which impairs cognitive performance when left unchecked).
- They decrease the risk of making errors on the job.
- They increase mental alertness and reduce fatigue.
Put these benefits together, and you've got a recipe for serious improvements in productivity and overall job performance. Given this, it's no surprise that power naps are gradually starting to catch on in workplaces across the country.
How to Power Nap Like a Pro
In order to reap the benefits of a power nap, it's important that you do it right. Here are four ways to optimize your napping.
Pick your time and duration
Most experts recommend power napping at the same time every day in order to train your body to fall asleep easily at that time. Aim to nap sometime between 1 and 3 p.m., when most of us experience a natural energy dip.
Set your alarm for 15 to 20 minutes in order to enjoy increased alertness upon waking up. (Napping for 30 to 90 minutes may bring additional benefits, but few of us have that kind of time. We're also more liable to wake up groggy after a longer nap sesh.)
Set the stage
Creating a sleep-inducing environment will increase the odds that you actually catch some restorative ZZZs. Make sure the room is quiet, as dark as possible, and fairly cool (aim for somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 degrees). Research shows that cool, dark, and noise-free environments are most conducive to sleep.
Consider drinking coffee beforehand
Biohackers have popularized the idea of a "coffee nap ," which involves drinking a cup of coffee and then immediately napping for 20 minutes. Because it takes approximately 20 minutes for caffeine to absorb into the body, the idea is that the caffeine in the coffee makes its way through your system while you sleep--and then you wake up extra alert.
Calm your mind
When you're just starting a power nap routine, you might face some mental resistance. Most of us have trained our bodies to stay awake through the afternoon, so this can be a big transition. Ease into it by taking calming breaths as you lie down to nap. You may spend your first several napping attempts just breathing instead of sleeping, and that's okay. You're training your body to relax at that time, and eventually sleep will follow.
If no one else in your office is a power napper, it might feel a little weird at first to take time out of your day to nap. The good news is the benefits of these power naps will speak for themselves--so don't be surprised if you create an afternoon snooze trend office-wide.