Do you enjoy napping? I certainly do, and know that they can actually maximize performance, restore alertness and reduce the probability of mistakes and accidents.
Just make sure that you don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes, otherwise you’ll wake up feeling more tired than when you laid down. Why? Suffice it to say that this has all to do with the brain.
Humans sleep just once a day, compared to over 85 % of mammalian species that sleep more than once. It’s not understood why we are this way, but it’s clear that a majority of us aren’t getting enough sleep so our bodies are telling us to take a nap.
So if you have a sleep deficit, you may want to think about integrating some “power naps” into your daily routine.
What exactly is a power nap? They are sleep sessions that happen during the day between 1:00 – 4:00 pm, and last between 10 and 30 minutes. If you sleep more than 30 minutes, you run the risk of developing “sleep inertia” – the unpleasant groggy feeling you get from napping too long. Sleeping after 4:00 pm will disrupt your regular nighttime sleep, so stay away from this also.
Let’s look at the breakdown of different power naps, as outlined below:
10 to 20 Minutes:
This is great for a quick energy boost and improved alertness. This length keeps one in the lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which makes it easier to go about your day after waking up.
Sleeping for only 30 minutes may cause “sleep inertia” as explained above. This groggy feeling can last up to 30 minutes before the naps restorative benefits become apparent. This happens because we interrupt stages of entering deep sleep, which confuses our body and can make us feel more tired.
A 60-minute nap is best if you want to improve your memory for facts, faces and names. It includes the deepest kind of sleep, called slow wave sleep. The downside is that you will probably feel groggy after waking up.
90 minutes is the time it takes for you to undergo a full sleep cycle. The lighter and deeper stages, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the sleep where we start to dream. 90-minute sleep cycles improve emotional and procedural memory, i.e., consolidating memory to ride a bike, playing the guitar and creativity. Sleeping for 90 minutes, instead of 30 or 60 minutes, prevents sleep inertia, because you aren’t interrupting the 90-minute sleep cycle.
While we’re asleep, the brain cycles through a pattern that lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. These stages include non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) (associated with dreaming) sleep.
The deepest kind of sleep is NREM sleep, where we enter into slow-wave sleep. This is when we consolidate memories related to facts, places and faces, and is a main benefit of the 60-minute power nap.
Let’s summarize what benefits’ napping provides:
- Taking a nap is an excellent time for the brain to reboot – it helps increase mental alertness, learning, memory and performance.
- A 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 % and alertness by 100 % among nurses, doctors and medical students that worked around the clock.
- Napping also improves memory retention.
- Napping reverses information overload and heightens your senses and creativity.
- Lastly, napping improves your overall health and mood.
So the next time you feel groggy or tired, don’t reach for the coffee – take a 30-minute nap instead. I guarantee you’ll feel better afterward.
See you all next week.