Power napping can improve everything from your waistline measurement to your health and work performance, provided you nap when you need it. That is the view of a growing number of experts, who claim that our sleep-deprived lifestyles can be enhanced through regular naps. So when and how should you power nap? Here are the golden rules:
When to power nap
Experts say the ideal time to nap is generally between 1 and 4 pm – any later in the day could interfere with night-time sleep. This means a lunchtime mini-snooze is ideal. Sara Mednick, an assistant psychology professor at the University of California and author of the book Take a Nap! Change your Life, also states that mid-day is prime napping time, partly because it’s when the sun is at its highest and temperatures peak, making us feel intuitively sleepy.
The benefits of catching up on sleep are wide ranging: A six-year study showed that taking a 30-minute nap at least three times a week can lead to a 37% lower chance of a heart attack. Others have shown that napping reduces stress and anxiety (both a result of rising levels of the hormone cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands) by triggering the release of sleep hormones that act as an antidote to anxiety.
Naps can last anything from 10 to 90 minutes. For the chronically tired, two shorter, 25-minute naps at lunchtime and after work may be enough to help you catch up on sleep debt. But researchers at Flinders University in Australia published a study in the journal Sleep a few years ago showing that, for most people, shorter naps can be the most effective. Their study compared short sleeps ranging from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, testing subjects on a variety of mental agility tasks after each. The 10-minute nappers showed by far the greatest mental sharpness after waking and for several hours afterwards.
‘A lot of people do find they benefit from naps,’ says Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey. ‘If you feel you don’t get enough sleep at night, it can definitely be helpful to catch up. You will feel less tired and stressed and countless studies have shown that napping has benefits in disease prevention’.
Where to power nap
At home, the answer is easy – on your bed or sofa. But what if you are at work or out shopping when the urge to snooze strikes? Our bodies associate certain postures with sleep and getting as close to these as possible will help. ‘If there is no place to lie down, at least raise your feet.’ Dr Mendick says. Ideally, choose somewhere quiet and dark, but at the very least turning off your mobile and put your computer into sleep mode. Investing in a pair of earplugs might be worthwhile if you are choosing to nap somewhere noisy. Avoid caffeine, which can interrupt napping, and don’t sleep somewhere too warm (the ideal temperature for sleep is a nippy 18-20 degrees) otherwise, you might not wake up in time.
What are your thoughts on daytime napping? Let us know in the comments!