“When I was at NASA we gave the pilots a planned nap in the cockpit,” says Rosekind, who is a board member of the National Sleep Foundation. “While two pilots flew the plane, the third would have 40 minutes to nap. We found they would sleep for 26 minutes, which boosted their performance by 34% and their alertness by 54%.” – Mark Rosekind, PhD. Source
Power naps are a great way to give yourself a shot of physical and mental energy in the middle of your day. Even when you get a good night’s sleep, sometimes your body just needs a rest in the middle of the day.
The beauty of power naps is they do not have to be long, they can be done on your break at work or during your lunch hour, and they usually leave you feeling energized. Adding this one small change to your workday could boost your afternoon productivity, or give you that extra motivation to make it through your son’s baseball practice with enthusiasm.
Do not use a nap as a way to make up for a sleep deficit. Your body needs to be in deep REM sleep for a minimum amount of time so it can repair and rejuvenate itself. Rather, supplement your regular sleep schedule with a short, mid-day power nap that gives you a quick and easy shot of energy.
Here are the points to remember:
- Short Naps are Best: If you have tried afternoon napping in the past only to find it leaves you feeling groggy, try sleeping for less than a half-hour. Twenty to thirty minutes is the ideal length for a power nap because your body does not have the chance to fall into any kind of deep sleep. This will allow you to wake up feeling energized rather than fuzzy. It is also short enough so that it will not interfere with your nightly sleep schedule. Do not take a nap that is going to prevent you from going to bed at night.
If you need an instant pick me up, try closing your eyes for just five minutes. Even a couple of minutes of rest can give you increased energy and clear your mind.
- Make it a Habit: Working in a nap as part of your normal daily routine will allow your body to expect it and incorporate it into its natural rhythms. In fact, try scheduling it into your calendar or using half of your lunch break. By keeping it regular, you will find it easier to doze off quickly and easy to wake up again.
- Get Comfortable: Some people are lucky enough to be able to fall asleep anywhere, anytime. All they have to do is stop moving for just a few minutes and bam – they are out. Unfortunately it is not that easy for all of us. If you work at home and want to try napping, get comfortable in a familiar location. Go lay in bed or on your couch.
Others are able to fall asleep in the car (but do not sleep in a hot car with the windows rolled up – find a safe place to stop and crack your windows), or even behind the desk. While this isn’t ideal for cubicle workers, If you have an executive’s style chair, many times you can kick your feet up, lean your head back, and close your eyes. If you are nervous about people pulling pranks on you, find an empty conference room or a vacant office with a door you can lock.
If, after several attempts, you are not able to pull it off, try a quick meditation break instead. It’s not sleeping, but it sure is a great way to restart your afternoon.
Do not feel guilty about indulging in an afternoon nap. You are doing your body a great service by keeping it rested and energized. If you are afraid of getting too comfortable, set an alarm to ensure you do not oversleep. Oversleeping during a nap is going to destroy your sleep schedule and can make you feel more tired. Keep it short.
If you are not used to napping, you may wake up feeling groggy. Go into the restroom and splash some cool water on your face, or run your wrists under the tap. Your blood vessels are very close to the skin in your wrists, which is why tap water running over the wrists can help raise or lower body temperature. Holding them under the cool water for a couple of minutes should help clear out the cobwebs. Supplement this with some foods that will naturally boost your energy.
Once you wake up from your nap, do something physical as well. Even if you go for a short stroll around the office, the act of moving will clear your mind and get you back into the right frame of mind to work.