There’s a magical way to lose weight, have better sex, live longer, and be more productive. It’s called crystal meth. Pardon, it’s actually called “sleep.” Yet, despite the many benefits of sleep, almost none of us get enough of it. Those who do are monsters who we’d kill with fire if only they weren’t so spry. But, as the saying goes “if you can’t destroy them in a blazing inferno, join them.” In order to become one of the ranks of the well-rested, it’s time to learn all about power naps.
What is a Power Nap
A power nap is not to be confused with regular sleep. It’s a shortened period of rest wherein you relax your brain. You don’t want to fall completely asleep, because then you’re likely to wake up three hours later in a puddle of saliva, your hair a frightening rat’s nest.
Rather, a power nap is similar to a deep meditative state. Typically, power naps are only about 10 to 30 minutes long. Research done by NASA shows that after a nap of approximately 26 minutes, participants were an estimated 34 percent more effective in their performance. Likewise, they were an average of 54 percent more alert. These benefits faded the longer the person slumbered.
The History of the Power Nap
Yes, you’re likely a grown adult who is about to hear the history of napping. This is what your life has come to. However, it’s important to understand why naps are effective.
If you’ve ever seen an animal go through its daily routine—and what healthy, well-adjusted person hasn’t watched their cat for a few hours?—you’ll likely see that they don’t sleep in long, eight-hour blocks. This is partly because there’s a creepy person staring at them, and partly because it’s unnatural.
In the natural world, sleeping is dangerous. If a beast of the field lays down for a full night, it’s likely to wake up in the stomach of something else. Since humans are tasty blobs of flesh, we’re not wired for extended periods of rest. We sleep in stages, known as polyphasic sleep. A longer rest during the night is one of these stages. Another is taking short rest periods during the day.
This is why most of us are exhausted and downright useless sometime in the early to mid-afternoon. We’re tired because our natural bodies think it’s time to snag a quick rest. Also, because we had three martinis with our turkey club at lunch.
The Science of Power Naps
There’s a couple of quick vocabulary terms to know in order to understand the true might of the power nap:
- Sleep spindle – These are patterns of electrical activity that stimulate your brain. These are tied to memory retention, creative thinking, and energy gained from brief rest.
- Sleep inertia – This is something that occurs during deeper sleep. It’s what makes you feel sluggish and out of sorts when you wake up.
During very early sleep stages, the human brain produces sleep spindles. While these still aren’t fully understood, what is known is they seem to help people form memories as well as cause increased creative thought. These are the Holy Grail of power naps. They are thought to make thinking clearer and energize the brain.
On the other hand, sleep inertia is what sets in after about 30 minutes of rest. If you hit this, you’re in too deep and not even Liam Neeson is going to be able to get you out. Once you reach sleep inertia, you’re going to arise confused, because your brain is now shutting down like it’s listening to the extended version of “Freebird.”
How to Power Nap
Believe it or not, there’s a right and wrong way to nap. To get the sleep spindle goodies, while avoiding the hobgoblin of sleep inertia, there are a few things you need to do:
- Paint it Black – You want the room as dark as possible. Sunlight and blue light—like that of computer monitors—will interfere with your brain’s ability to relax.
- Lay Back – If you’re a spoiled corner-office type with a couch, great. If not, pick a spot as comfortable as possible. This is a snooze after all, so try to avoid doing it in your office chair. Go out to your car where you do your crying, slap on a sleep mask, and recline the seat.
- Find Your Happy Place – Unwind your mind by focusing on relaxing your body. Visualize a calm scene, like a meadow or a mosh pit. Whatever mellows you out.
- Time it Right – Studies show the most benefits from power napping take place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. You might be a little different, so whenever the afternoon sleepiness starts to fuzz your brain, plan on doing it then.
- Wakey, Wakey, Eggs, and Bakey – Set a timer for no longer than 30 minutes. You might feel drowsy for a bit when you first get up, but this passes. The key is to avoid going too long.
- Repeat – The first time you try this, it might not give you the ya-yas, but keep at it. Once you train your brain to rest at about the same time each day, it will get easier and the energy fairy will come to bless you with more zip and zazz.
With this guide, your Power Nap Kung Fu should be strong. You’re now ready to take on the world. Right after a little doze.
Power Nap Essentials
A true super snooze requires the right equipment. You wouldn’t go into a joust with a toothpick, wouldn’t show up at a dance battle without your funk, and you can’t power nap if you ain’t got the gear. Here’s what we suggest keeping on hand for a strong siesta.
Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask
Light is the natural enemy of the sleep spindle. While you can just use those meat flaps over your eyes to cover them, to really embrace the darkness and maximize your down time, this comfortable, sheer sleep mask is your best friend.
Brooklinen Weighted Blanket
Coworkers rarely want to cuddle for nap time, and those that do should probably be reported to HR. Instead of the comfort of a person, get the same safe, secure sensation from this heavy blanket, optimized to send you right to the cusp of dreamland.
SNOOZ White Noise Sound Machine
You could try muzzling the whole office, but then you’d need a legal defense. Instead, try this full-spectrum white noise magic box, complete with an on-board fan. It has plenty of settings, along with a guarantee that you’ll rest deeper than you ever dreamed.
ThisWorks Sleep Power Nap Spray
There are few problems that can’t be solved with the cunning use of chemistry. This 99 percent natural spray will help your brain get to the sleepy sweet spot faster, especially when you’re resting outside of your normal hours.
AmazonBasics Room Blackout Window Curtains
You want lots of healthy, wholesome sunshine to help you energize after you’ve napped, but when you’re flirting with REM, you want as much gloom as you can get. These curtains are tasteful enough to look stylish, yet thick enough to blacken your lair.