✒ How To Master The Skill Of Power-Napping


In this fast living society we are always confronted with too little time for too many things to take care of.
Stress and hectic are common parts of our daily routine. And although we plan to relax on our days off, there will always be something to change these plans.
We’ve forgotten about the beautiful time of our childhood, when daily naps were a must. Now we work ourselves through stressful days and nightmare plagued nights to near exhaustion.
But is ‘getting our to-do list done asap’ worth the toll it takes on our bodies? Or could we manage a few minutes break every day, to get ourselves trained again to have a little bit of extra sleep, to recharge our ‘batteries’?

Taking a nap is more important than you think and can be highly efficient, if you do it right.

You may ask yourself, what you can do wrong when having some extra sleep during the day, but there are actually quite a few things to consider and options to choose from.

Studies have shown that the longer you sleep during naps, the greater are the benefits for your body, alertness and health. But that short naps can be just as effective.
The only thing you need to be aware of is, that if you nap longer than 30 minutes and less than 90 minutes, you will feel the effects of sleep inertia (which is an uncomfortable feeling of grogginess and disorientation, that might stay with you for up to an hour).
You also want to keep track of: if and how your naps will effect your night sleep and if you need to adjust your nap-times accordingly.

Most people are biphasic sleepers, which means that biologically they need to sleep twice a day. And if they can’t do so, because of their busy lifestyle for example, their brains will experience a dip in alertness between 1 and 4pm. This is not necessarily bad for your body if this happens only now and then, but forcing yourself regularly to perform close to your limits, will influence your stress levels and so your mental health and will potentially lead to heart disease and strokes, as well as IBS and other stress related illnesses.
Power-naps not only contributive to lowering stress levels, and blood pressure (45 min naps literally lower blood pressure and not just for the moment), but they also help you with more.
They improve your mood and your feelings of sleepiness and fatigue (of course), but they are also an important factor in weight management.
Studies have proven, that taking a nap is more relaxing and useful for your body, than spending the same amount of time on the sofa, watching TV. Researchers say, that TV viewing and sleep have contrasting effects on energy balance and weight maintenance. So if you are planning to lose some weight, you might want to switch off the flicker box and use your time instead for a little nap.

So, having some nap-time every day will award you with many benefits. You will experience an allover increase in your daily performance, alertness and memory, as well as an improvement of your learning skills.
These so called power-naps boost your brain, improve creative problem solving, as well as perceptual learning, object learning, statistical learning and verbal memory. They also promote your symbol recognition, logical reasoning, reaction times and your skills in math.

A nap-time should be scheduled between 6-8 hours after waking. But this aside, there are more things you need to know, to nap right:

There are 3 main Nap-Styles.

  1. The Planned (or prepared) Nap – is the one kind of naps, that you make time for in your schedule, BEFORE you get sleepy. Very convenient when you are planning to make it a long night after a full day of work. (The Appetitive Napping – is strictly for enjoyment and falls also in this category).
  2. The Habitual Nap – is the practice of taking a nap at the same time every day (like in preschool), which is the most healthy kind of naps, but unfortunately not applicable for most of the people with a 9-5 job.
  3. And then there is the Emergency Nap – which is an unhealthy kind of nap, that occurs when you are so exhausted, that sleep chooses you and not the other way around. If you experience this dangerous kind of ‘low’ often, you should rethink your daily task and sleeping schedule and consider consulting your physician.

Next to the variations of the styles of napping, there are also napping-durations that need to be considered. In order to what you want to achieve, you will need to make enough time for your nap break.

I want to shine the light on the 3 most important nap durations that are suitable for a modern lifestyle and most improving for your productivity.

  1. The Ultra Short Sleep Episode – is the shortest and only lasts 6 min. Short enough to be squeezed into a lunch break, it can improve your declarative memory (a type of long term memory that pertains to our ability to recall facts and knowledge). Quite useful on the job/in school, to feel refreshed and ready to impress, when everybody else is getting sleepy.
  2. The famous power nap – that lasts 10-20 minutes and is (with 20 min.) long enough to improve alertness, concentration and mood; refreshing you sufficiently, to continue safely. But short enough to prevent you from feeling the effects of sleep inertia.
  3. The longest of the so called naps is the REM Nap – it lasts for 60-90 minutes, (the Rapid Eye Movement sleep phase is associated with dreaming, when you enter into slow-wave sleep, the deepest kind of sleep, which happens after about 60 minutes after falling asleep).
    It helps us to remember facts, faces and places, increases creativity and emotional memory, as well as procedural memory (which is valuable when you are learning a new skill).

Naps are proven to be even better than caffeine. While short term sleep improves your verbal memory, motor skills, perceptual learning and free recall memory (60-90min sleep), caffeine is known to impair declarative verbal memory and motor sequence learning.
But if you are solely trying to just get a little boost to keep you going, a cup of coffee is probably less time consuming than a nap.

A note to think about:
Children experience critical deficits in performance as well as in short- and long-term memory related learning, when they are nap-deprived. A deficit that proper night sleep cannot recover.
Resulting in a rise of their anxiety levels and a decrease of the levels of interest and understanding of problem solving.

Make time for a nap and ensure that you and your loved ones follow up on it.
It will do you more than good.

 

Photo by: MT

  • March 17, 2015
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