Nodding off during an important work meeting, snoring through a boring lecture, riding the subway to the end of the line after falling asleep on the ride home — these things happen. But avoid being "that" person by adding nap time to that daily routine. Seriously: Catching some (planned) midday Zzz’s can refresh and rejuvenate.
Are You Down With REM? — What It Is
Learn the lingo: A power nap is just a fancy term for any sort of short nap designed to recharge the sleep-deprived. Studies show getting more sleep can lower risk for a handful of health problems from high blood pressure to obesity and diabetes Daytime Sleep Accelerates Cardiovascular Recovery after Psychological Stress. Brindle, RC., Conklin, SM. Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, 16335, USA. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 2011 Feb 26. Insufficient sleep in young patients with diabetes and their families. Estrada, C.L., Danielson, K.K., Drum, M.L., et al. Institute for Endocrine Discovery and Clinical Care, University of Chicago, Illinois. Biological Research for Nursing, 2012 Jan;14(1):48-54. The link between short sleep duration and obesity: we should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity. Taheri, S. Henry Wellcome LINE, Dorothy Hodgkin Building, University of Bristol, UK. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2006 Nov;91(11):881-4. . Plus, napping has been known to enhance creative thinking, improve memory, and aid with learning — so perhaps it's time we take a cue from kindergarteners An ultra short episode of sleep is sufficient to promote declarative memory performance. Lahal, O., Wispel, C., Willigens, B., Pietrowsky, R. Institute of Experimental Psychology at University of Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany. Journal of Sleep Research 2008 Mar; 17(2): 3-10. The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration. Mednick, SC., Nakayama, K., Cantero, JL., et al. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA. Natural Neuroscience 2002 Jul;5(7):677-81. .
The ideal length for a power nap varies from person to person, but somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes is the general recommendation Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Milner, C.E., Cote, K.A. Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Sleep Research 2009 Jun; 18(2): 272-281. . Any longer and deeper stages of sleep begin, which can lead to a zombie-like state of grogginess when it's time to wake up. Twenty minutes not cutting it? Make it 90 to allow for a complete REM (rapid eye movement) cycle.
Typically, our bodies get tired after about 8 hours of being awake, so the best time of day for napping varies for each person, but the best window of opportunity tends to be somewhere from 2–4 pm Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Milner, C.E., Cote, K.A. Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Sleep Research 2009 Jun; 18(2): 272-281. .
It Ain’t Just For Preschoolers — What It Means to You
What’s the secret of successful napping? Ambiance is key. Find somewhere quiet, comfortable, and away from distractions, preferably with enough room to lie down — although a bed isn’t always necessary. Recreate a sleep-inducing environment anywhere by making the room as dark as possible using window shades or an eye mask. Having trouble falling asleep? Sleeping in a hammock may be the answer to a sound slumber. One study found that napping on a slowly swinging bed (or hammock) put subjects to sleep faster and also encourages deeper sleep Rocking synchronizes brain waves during a short nap. Bayer, L., Constantinescu, I., Perrig, S. Current Biology, 2011 Jan 21;21(12):R461-2. . Just don’t forget to set an alarm!
While there's no reason not to nap, get the most out of that midday break by taking a few things to take into consideration. First, don’t oversleep — otherwise there's the risk of waking up even more tired than before, a feeling that some sleep experts refer to as "sleep drunkenness" (apparently less fun than it sounds). While we’d all like to curl up under our desks (or, maybe even right at them), corporate culture isn’t always friendly to the idea of a midday cat nap. While some major companies like Nike and Google have realized that their employees deserve a little extra shuteye, on the whole, napping isn’t exactly on the big boss’s agenda.
Trying to convince corporate that naptime needs to be added to the daily agenda? Maybe this will change their minds: One Spanish study found that workplace accidents tended to be more serious after lunch, possibly due to failure to take a lunch-time nap The special severity of occupational accidents in the afternoon: "The lunch effect." Miguel, A., Lópeza,C., Fontanedab, I., et al. Economic Science, University of Burgos, Burgos, Spain. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2011 May;43(3):1104-16. .
Originally posted May 2011. Updated April 2012.
Borrow a tip from South American culture and add a little siesta to the day. Tell the boss it’ll help his bottom line... because it probably will.