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(Note: This article is a part of our 31-day series, “31 Days to a Whole Body Makeover“.)
How many of you get that major slump of energy in the afternoon? What do you do to get your energy back up so you can power through the rest of your day? Do you reach for something high in sugar? Maybe a highly-caffeinated drink? That’s most definitely what I always did! It was only recently that I actually learned how to power nap, and I find it is so much more effective and doesn’t have the bad side effects that come with sugar and caffeine.
Taking a nap sounds like a luxury, though, doesn’t it? I had always thought of a nap as being a two-hour long chunk of time, and who has time for that? Between work, taking care of our families, and all of the other countless responsibilities we have during the day, having a two-hour block of time to yourself is nearly impossible.
But that’s the thing… for best results all you need are 20 minutes total, it might be something you might be able to do at work (more on this below), and it won’t even interrupt your regular nighttime sleep like a long nap might otherwise!
(Related: Get Better Sleep Tonight!)
Because I have experienced so much benefit for myself, I am excited to tell you my tips on how to take a power nap.
About a year ago, I was getting dressed to go to the gym. My kids were running around being crazy (or, you know, being kids), and I remember thinking, “Holy cow, I am just way too tired to go to the gym. What am I thinking?!” But I’m super committed to my fitness goals, so I was just going to power through. With a half hour to go before it was time to leave, I thought, “Maybe, just maybe, I can close my eyes for a few minutes and see how I feel.”
I made sure my kids were safe, and I let them know that if they needed me, they should come get me. I went to bed and set an alarm for 20 minutes.
The 20 minutes felt like seconds, but when I got up, I wasn’t in the least bit groggy! I was full of energy and super stoked to go to the gym for a killer workout. It was such a lightbulb experience for me, which sounds silly, but power naps really are life-changing for me. After that day, I started reading up on power napping and the best way to get the most out of a nap.
The Benefits of Power Napping
Naps have been shown to recharge energy and boost productivity so much that many corporations such as Google, Hewlitt-Packard, Nike, The New York Times, and AOL-Huffington Post, just to name a few, are instituting naps into their employee’s work day, if they so desire.
Boosts Alertness — NASA encourages their pilots to take a 20-minute nap to increase alertness. This is so well-known that airplane pilots often will take “NASA naps” during long flights while their coworkers take over for them.
Improved Learning and Memory — MRI scans show that people who nap maintain higher brain activity than those who don’t rest at all.
Increases Productivity and Improves Performance — If you are planning to perform something important, and have to be “on”, like giving a speech or participating in a sporting competition, taking time for a nap just prior to the event is important so you will perform at your very best.
Lifts Your Spirits — Because naps are such a huge stress reliever, it’s impossible not to feel better after some shuteye.
Prevents Burnout — If you are in the midst of a huge project, taking a nap will help your mind reset so that when you come back to your project, you are seeing it with fresh eyes. You just might find solutions you would have never otherwise noticed.
How to Properly Power Nap
I know that many people (like myself) have a hard time actually falling asleep, but I promise you, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Every time you attempt to take a nap, your brain is trained a little more, and soon, drifting off will become almost automatic. Even if the first few times, you simply have your eyes closed, studies show that just letting your mind drift off is as effective as actually falling asleep.
In fact, don’t stress about the fact that you are taking a nap and “shirking responsibility” or “being lazy” because that would defeat the purpose. Realize that it is to your benefit and the benefit of those who depend on you.
Limit your nap to 20 minutes. Doing so will keep your brain from entering deep (slow-wave) sleep that is hard to come out of without feeling heavy, groggy, and sluggish. If you are asleep longer than 30 minutes, you will get these undesired effects known as sleep inertia.
Naps are most effective in the early afternoon, right after eating lunch, to avoid going into that deeper sleep.
Avoid consuming large quantities of caffeine, sugar, and fat, as they mess with your ability to fall asleep. Instead, opt for calcium and protein because they promote sleep.
Try to darken your environment with either blinds, or wear an eye mask. This will help produce melatonin, the hormone that puts you to sleep.
Don’t forget to set an alarm.
If you are still having a hard time relaxing, try an app called Pzizz. It’s a FREE app!
Taking Naps at Work
Although many employers are getting smart about the benefits of power napping, not every work environment is as progressive. It may be a fireable offense in some work environments, so be careful. Know your workplace policies.
If you can’t put your head down at your desk or if there are not rooms reserved for napping at your workplace, there are some options that may work better for you. Find a safe place to park your car and nap there. If you commute on a bus or train, or if you carpool, you can nap after work so you can enjoy your after-work evening hours. There are usually a lot of couches available at a library or bookstore, even in a hospital waiting room; people nap there all the time! The least desirable option, but probably most common, is actually a toilet stall at work. It sounds awful, but even if you can get away for a few minutes to the bathroom, and rest your elbows on your legs, and rest your head on your hands for a few minutes might be worth it to the benefits of a rested mind.
I was hesitant to even write this last part, because I wasn’t sure it fit in, but this is for my fellow working ladies who might greatly benefit from a nap in the middle of the afternoon.
Source: Take a Nap! Change Your Life. by Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D.
What about you? Do you take power naps during the day? Do you have any suggestions to make napping easier? Please let me know in the comments below.