If you find your energy levels slipping in the middle of the day, we have a better solution than yet another cup of coffee: a power nap.
A national tradition in many countries, we’re just starting to uncover the benefits of a nap — and there are plenty. It allows us to take a break from all our responsibilities, and it can restore our physical energy, improve our cognitive function, and help us power through the rest of the day.
However, not all daytime naps are created equal. Some can even disrupt your sleep cycle, making it harder to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.
To help you avoid common napping mistakes, this guide from ASYSTEM provides you with everything you need to know to power nap like a boss.
What Are Some Different Types of Naps?
There are several types of naps that serve different purposes. While a nap is technically a nap, it’s useful to distinguish between them. This allows you to consider your goals for napping and pick the one that’s best for you.
- Recovery nap: If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, you may be feeling off in many ways. A recovery nap will allow you to compensate for some of your sleep loss and to restore how you feel to a more normal state.
- Essential nap: If you’re recovering from an illness, eating less, or exercising more, your body will require more sleep. In such a case, you will need more sleep during the day for recovery.
- Prophylactic nap: If you plan to stay up at night — such as when pulling an all-nighter — then a prophylactic nap can help you avoid extreme sleep deprivation. This type of nap is also popular with night shift workers.
- Fulfillment nap: Because children need more sleep than adults, naps have to be scheduled into their day — whether they feel tired or not. This type of nap is called a fulfillment nap (or the more cute “nap time.”)
So, what’s a power nap? Essentially, it’s a nap carried out for any of the above purposes that’s short and sweet. Usually, power naps last no longer than 20 minutes.
What Are the Benefits of Power Naps?
For most people, the closer we get to bedtime, the greater our desire to sleep. The technical term for this is “homeostatic sleep drive.” True to its name, its purpose is to restore our energy levels to homeostasis by getting us to fall asleep.
We can also feel this sleep drive when we don’t get enough sleep the night before. As such, we may feel this drive much earlier in the day, interfering with our functioning.
Thankfully, it’s not necessary to get a whole night’s sleep to restore our energy levels. A simple nap during the day can hold us over until our actual bedtime. Beyond giving us a quick energy boost and reducing sleepiness, naps have various other health benefits:
- Improved learning: Naps can improve performance in reaction time, logical reasoning, and symbol recognition — important aspects of learning, especially in a school context.
- Improved memory formation: Naps won’t only help you remember things, but they can aid in your ability to form new memories.
- Improved emotion regulation: One study found that after taking a nap, participants were less impulsive and showed a greater tolerance for frustration than the control group (who didn’t sleep at all).
However, these benefits won’t apply to everyone equally. Some people report feeling groggy after a nap without any of the benefits listed above. In addition, some people may experience sleep disturbances, even when keeping their naps to a minimum duration. It may be that some people are predisposed to the benefits of napping while others are not.
However, two groups of people can significantly benefit from napping: drivers and shift workers.
We know that shift work can be challenging as it falls outside normal waking hours, which can interfere with a regular circadian rhythm. A possible consequence is an increase in work-related accidents.
Nonetheless, many professions require shift work, such as emergency room physicians. One way to address the possible issues of being a shift worker is by napping before starting work. One study shows this to be an effective method to reduce some of the side effects of shift work.
Napping can also play a role in helping drivers battle drowsiness. Sleep deprivation is a significant risk factor for car crashes. However, those who drive for a living cannot call out of work because they feel tired. As a solution, drivers may pull over for a short nap to increase focus and alertness.
How Can I Power Nap Like a Boss?
Not all naps are equally beneficial. However, you can be sure that you’re getting all you can out of it with some tweaks.
Here are some evidence-based ways to make your nap work for you:
Choose the RIght Nap Length
Have you ever lied down for a nap only to find yourself still awake three hours later? Sleeping too much can seriously interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule, which can take you days to fix.
On the other hand, if you nap for too little, you won’t get to the restorative stage of sleep and may not wake up feeling all that refreshed.
As such, it’s essential to time your nap to about 20 minutes. This will allow you to enter a special stage of deep sleep known as NREM stage N2, during which your body temperature drops, your heart rate lowers, and your brain wave activity slows down. This allows you to get the restorative benefits of sleep without disturbing your sleep schedule.
Nap No Later Than 3:00 P.M.
Of course, the ideal timing of your nap depends on your schedule. However, if you follow a normal nine-to-five workday schedule, you should nap between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Anything later, and you might toss and turn come bedtime. This can also be a great way to deal with that afternoon slump.
Find a Comfortable Place (But Not Too Comfortable)
When it comes to sleeping at night, we want our environment to be as comfortable as possible. That means soft bedding, fluffy pillows, and blackout curtains.
However, when it comes to naps, we want to stay away from ultra-comfy places as they’ll make us never want to get up.
If you’re working from home, your comfy bed may not be the right choice for a nap. Instead, go for something less comfortable, such as a couch or armchair.
If you’re working in an office, a couch may be hard to come by. In this case, it’s totally fine to take a nap in your chair (use a neck pillow to make the experience more comfortable). Alternatively, consider napping in your car — we’re sure no one will distract you there.
Turn Off Your Phone
If you only have 20 minutes to nap, you want to make the most of it. If your phone is a constant source of distraction, then it’s best to put it away while you nap. You should also avoid distractions of other types, such as friendly co-workers.
If it’s not possible to find a place free of distractions, you can block out everything around you. An eye mask, earplugs, and noise-canceling headphones can be life-savers when napping.
Take a Calming Supplement
If you’re tired but have trouble relaxing enough to take a nap, then taking a natural supplement may be just what you need to bring you calm. ASYSTEM’S Calm System contains a combination of ingredients clinically proven to aid relaxation, which can help you get some much-needed shut-eye.
(Optional) Have Some Coffee Before
Coffee before a nap? Why would someone do that?
Keep in mind that it takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to kick in. So, if you drink coffee and lie down for a nap immediately after (which is also known as a coffee nap), you won’t feel the effects until after you wake up.
However, when you do wake up, you’ll feel the combined effects of a power nap and a cup of coffee. This is one of our favorite hacks for an extra burst of energy following your nap.
If you didn’t get enough sleep at night, a power nap could be just what you need to recharge your batteries. A nap can provide you with many benefits, such as improved learning, memory, emotion regulation, and energy.
Of course, a nap is no substitute for a night of healthy sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, then ASYSTEM’S Sleep Gummies can help you fall and stay asleep — so you wake up feeling refreshed (no napping required).
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)
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