Is the post-lunch energy dip getting you down? Or maybe you’re just not getting the restful sleep you need. Power naps might be the answer.
After all, many countries still embrace afternoon siestas, especially in the Mediterranean and South American cultures.
And there’s a whole list of highly-successful people—past and present—who swear that napping has been one of their keys to success. Even tech giants like Google have installed sleep pods in their offices (no joke)—and they’re not the only ones.
This brief article answers questions like:
- What is a power nap?
- How will it benefit you?
- What are some tips for successful napping?
Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll have the tools you need to move toward a more rested and energetic life.
Definition of a Power Nap
Power naps are short naps that usually last 30 minutes or less.
But what’s so special about short naps? Well, it’s all about the human sleep cycle and knowing how to harness its potential.
Naps that edge closer to 60 minutes or more will pull your brain into deeper sleep stages. But if you don’t have enough time to complete them, you’ll wake up in the middle of one, usually feeling worse than when you began.
However, if you take shorter naps, you’re more likely to wake up feeling rested instead of groggy and disoriented. That’s because you woke up from a lighter—but highly beneficial—stage of sleep.
In short, a power nap can help you reap the benefits of napping without diving into a full sleep cycle.
Later in the article, you’ll find more information about how to power nap effectively.
5 Ways Power Naps Enhance Your Life
1. Improves Energy and Alertness
It’s no secret that a sleep crisis has swept much of the modern world. Most people don’t get enough, and there are tons of reasons for it.
But for older adults, sleep quality is also an issue. We don’t sleep as soundly as we age.
Additionally, most people naturally become more tired about eight hours after waking up. That’s the afternoon energy dip referred to earlier.
If you’re over age 55, a power nap can really boost energy levels and make up for that lacking sleep, at least to some degree.
Even NASA has taken advantage of this science. They prescribed 26-minute naps for their pilots and found that the extra zzz’s increased overall alertness by 54%.
2. Boosts Your Mood
Low energy and sleepiness can be a real drag, which is why power naps often put you in a better mood.
Whether you fall asleep or not, deep relaxation stops the release of stress chemicals. These stress chemicals are what create tension in your body and deflate your mood.
When you’re deeply relaxed through meditation or napping, your brain waves slow dramatically. This lets you wake to a calmer state of mind and improved attitude.
3. Increases Capacity to Learn
Have you started a new hobby? Maybe you just signed up for that art class you’d been thinking about for months. A little extra sleep could help you get the most out of such experiences.
Power naps help you process and retain new information. Think of napping (or sleep in general) as a time for your mind to sort and organize data for later use. So, while your mind rests, it consolidates memories to improve recall.
This means that grabbing some brief shuteye in the afternoon can help you hold on to the new information and skills you’re acquiring. If you’re not getting restful nights of sleep, then this downtime is crucial for boosting brain function.
4. Decreases Risk of Heart Disease
The American Medical Association found that regular naps decreased the risk of death from heart disease by 37% compared to those who didn’t nap. In the study, healthy participants napped three times a week for an average of 30 minutes each session. These nappers were less likely to develop and then die from heart disease.
It’s common knowledge that stress and lack of sleep wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system, so naptime can play a critical role in maintaining heart health.
5. Reduces Blood Pressure
Speaking of heart health, the European Society of Cardiology found that regular nappers have lower blood pressure readings while awake (4% lower) and asleep (6% lower) than non-nappers.
Even though the percentages don’t seem like much, small blood pressure reductions can cut your risk of a cardiovascular event by as much as 10%.
The study also found that participants who napped regularly required fewer medications. Now that’s a win.
Quick Tips for Effective Power Naps
- When to nap: The optimal window is 15-20 minutes in the afternoon before 3 p.m. to avoid grogginess and to prevent affecting your nighttime sleep. Some people can nap up to 30 minutes without unwanted effects, so it’s a good idea to see what timeframe works best for you.
- Caffeine: Try caffeine right before your power naps because it takes 20-45 minutes to feel the effects. You should wake up just before the stimulant kicks in, giving you an extra boost. But don’t consume caffeine after 3 p.m. if you want to avoid nighttime sleep disturbances.
- Set an Alarm: This is critical if you don’t want to sleep past your power nap window.
- Setting: Create an environment that’s dark, quiet, and distraction-free. Lying down is best, but a comfy chair will work too.
- When you’ve only got five minutes: It’s still helpful to make the most of those five minutes. Kick back, close your eyes, and relax. But don’t forget to set a timer!
- Meditation as an alternative: If you have insomnia or trouble sleeping at night, napping is probably not the best idea. Instead, try meditation which also slows brain ways much the same as napping does. (And it won’t affect your regular sleep.)
Give Your Body a Rest When It Needs It
Time is a precious commodity, and often we don’t want to trade time for sleep. We have too much to do, whether for work or play.
But science says that you’ll get more out of life if you take a few minutes to recharge in the early afternoon. So if you’re ready to reap the energy and health benefits, try power naps for a week or two.
Just remember that they’re not for everyone. If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, opt for meditation instead.
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