You Need a Power Nap: Why Napping is Good for Your Health & Productivity

By | April 29, 2018 | lifestyle, self-care, wellness

Ready for a nap? A poor night’s rest can result in irritability, “brain fog”, and general existential angst that follows you around all day. And there’s a good chance that you are one in three of the adults who are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

That’s right, more than a third of American adults aren’t getting the minimum 7 hours of shut-eye, according to 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC).

Lack of sleep is a health risk

First, beyond killing productivity or getting a case of the grumpies, it is important to take seriously the long-term consequences of trying to get by on limited amounts of sleep. Sleeping less than the recommended seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

“People who are tired are just plain hungrier — and they seem to crave high-fat and high-calorie foods specifically.”

R. Morgan Griffin via WebMD.

But, there is a simple remedy. It’s called a nap.

Yawning cat taking a nap
Yawning, often triggered by sleepiness or fatigue, is a sign you might need a nap.

Recharge with a nap

Daniel H Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing really wants us to embrace the nap as a remedy for a poor night’s rest or as a technique to combat afternoon fatigue (the midday slump of our circadian rhythm). As he puts it, “naps are Zambonis for our brains.”

“Professionals take breaks. Amateurs don’t. Breaks are part of performance.” 

Daniel H. Pink

Sleep researcher, Dr. Sara Mednick, is also a big advocate for the nap. Her research shows a 15-90 minute daytime nap can improve brain functions ranging from memory to focus and creativity. She goes as far to say that “for some people, naps are as restorative as a whole night of sleep.”

Keep it short: the power nap

Sleeping on the job? For the working professional, the idea of killing an afternoon with a nap is heresy. But counter to the idea that naps are a time sink, a good nap can actually improve productivity, enhance creativity, and reduce stress. As Mednick’s research supports, naps needn’t be long to be effective. In fact, the “power nap” (10-20 minutes) is best for a lift in alertness and energy without creating what biologists call “sleep inertia.”

Enjoy an afternoon “nappuccino”

Pink’s recipe for a perfect nap may also seem counterintuitive. His “nappuccino” pairs a cup of coffee with a power nap. Here’s why: it takes 20-25 minutes for caffeine to take effect. The power nap is 10-20 minutes. Pink reasons that, if you down a cup of coffee before the nap, you’ll wake up as the caffeine is beginning to kick in.

Take a Nappuccino - Daniel Pink's recipe for drinking coffee 25 minutes before a nap.

Tips for the perfect nap

  • Listen to your body. Most adults naturally experience a low energy point between 1:00-3:00 pm. Instead of fighting your circadian rhythm, let it tell you when you need a nap.
  • Find a quiet place. If you are in an office, book a conference room or find a room where you can close the door and turn off the lights.
  • Turn off notifications. If you are using your phone for a timer or for guided meditation, make sure to turn off of those pesky e-mail and calendar notifications.
  • Use a meditation app. If you have trouble sleeping, guided meditation may help you fall asleep faster. Headspace and Calm are popular apps for meditation sleep exercises.
  • Plan a mental schedule. Routine can help with managing energy levels during the day. Do intense analytical work in the morning so that you are in a good mental place for a nap in the afternoon.

”Give me a break!”— energy-boosting alternatives to a nap

Napping isn’t always an option. But by paying attention to your body, you’ll find that there are other ways manage energy levels during the day. Here are few:

  • Avoid coffee first thing in the morning. It is recommended to wait 60-90 minutes after waking before having that first cup of coffee. Science shows that cortisol production peak as part of our natural waking process. During this peak, caffeine is less effective. Plus, you are more likely to build up a greater tolerance to caffeine.
  • Go for walk. Light cardio elevates mood and helps from succumbing to slouching further down in your chair. A 10-minute walk or climbing stairs doesn’t require a change of clothes.
  • Get some sunlight. Sunshine may increase the body’s production of serotonin, which lifts mood and increases energy. When it’s nice out, take your lunch outside.

Feeling rested is more than feeling good

By incorporating some of these habits into your daily routine you’ll have more control over energy swings (like mood swings) and hopefully, learn some ways to get a better night’s rest. Regular quality sleep can improve your overall health, happiness, and ability to give every day your best. Here are few benefits:

  • Better weight control
  • Improved mood
  • Clearer thinking
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased creativity
  • Reduced stress

What nap hacks do you use to improve productivity during the day?

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