An afternoon power nap can recharge your body and mind—providing you with the needed energy to tackle the second half of your day.
A 10- to 20-minute afternoon power nap can improve your concentration and sharpen your motor skills.
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Benefits of power napping
Before we talk about how to incorporate power naps into your workday, let’s review the benefits. The goal of a power nap is to reap the revitalizing benefits of sleep in the least amount of time, which for most people is 10 to 20 minutes.
After waking from your power nap you will likely enjoy:
- Improved concentration and alertness
- Better memory recall
- Reduced stress levels
- Increased stamina
- Sharpened motor skills
You run the risk of entering slow-wave sleep if you nap for longer than 30 minutes. This can be counterproductive, as many people feel sluggish after waking up from slow-wave sleep. On the other hand, every person is different so a longer nap may leave you feeling refreshed. My advice to my patients is to experiment with different nap lengths until they find what works best for them.
Find a safe and private place to power nap
If you’re like most people, your office doesn’t have a designated room for napping. So where can you find an isolated and relaxing location to help you fall asleep?
Any of the following places may fit the bill:
- Your office. You’re way ahead of the game if you have a private office. Simply press “do not interrupt” on your phone, switch off your computer, and shut your door. Consider stashing a pillow and blanket in your drawer if you plan to nap in your office on a regular basis.
- Conference room. A conference room can be a great place to catch some shuteye, but don’t forget to reserve the room to prevent accidental interruptions.
- Library or book store. The expectation is for people to talk quietly at a library or book store, so there is little chance that you will be distracted by others. As bonus, many libraries and book stores sell coffee for your post-nap enjoyment.
- Department store. Some department stores provide comfortable seating areas for those looking to take a break from shopping. This may be the most comfortable option available—but it can also be quite noisy.
- Gym. Many gyms or athletic clubs provide lounges that are perfect for a short nap - consider incorporating a short nap before your daily workout.
- Parked car. Surprisingly, a car is a comfortable place to nap. As long as it’s safe, you can take a power nap in your company parking lot during your lunch or coffee break. Another option is to pull into a safe parking lot on your commute home, lock the doors, switch on relaxing music, and enjoy 15 minutes of shuteye before heading home.
- Passenger seat of your carpool. If you carpool, see if your carpool partner is open to you driving in the morning and power napping on the ride home. Make sure to bring headphones or earplugs so the driver is free to listen to the radio, crack gum, or talk on the phone.
The key to a successful power nap is to fall asleep quickly
Regardless of where you choose to power nap, these tips can help you quickly fall asleep:
- Ditch your phone. It’s a smart idea to place your phone out of reach so you don’t waste valuable nap time texting or surfing the web. Additionally, the blue light from your phone can make it harder to fall asleep by inhibiting the release of melatonin.
- Try white noise. White noise—or noise consisting of multiple frequencies played at the same volume—masks all types of distracting sounds. A number of free white noise apps are available for your phone, or you can simply turn on a fan. Some of my patients find they prefer pink noise to white noise, as it minimizes the volume of high frequency sounds.
- Eat right. Consuming caffeine, fat, carbohydrates or sugar in the hours before your nap can keep you awake. If your stomach is grumbling, try something that contains protein and calcium—like a glass of milk.
- Nap after lunch. In general, the best time to power nap is right after lunch. Often referred to as a siesta, a post-lunch nap takes advantage of your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, which is typically in a sleep phase around 1 pm.
- Establish a routine. Over time, you can train your body to quickly fall sleep by establishing a daily routine. For example, napping in the same place, at the same time, while listening to the same music will send signals to your body that it’s time to rest and rejuvenate.
Hopefully the above guidelines will help you figure out how best to incorporate a power nap into your daily routine and enjoy the benefits of sharper thinking throughout the second half of the day.