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Why Power Naps Are Good For You

Power naps are good for youMid-day sleep, or a ‘power nap', means more patience, less stress, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency and better health. Here's what you need to know about the benefits of sleep and how a power nap can help you.

The term “Power Nap” was coined by Cornell University social psychologist James Maas and is defined as “a short sleep which terminates before the occurrence of deep sleep or slow-wave sleep (SWS), intended to quickly revitalize the subject from drowsiness”.

In Manhattan, napping has become a lucrative business: MetroNaps in the Empire State Building provides darkened cot-like redoubts that attract Broadway actors between shows as well as investment bankers who otherwise would fall asleep at their desks. And in Iraq, U.S. Marine commanders have mandated a power nap before patrols.

Why do we need a Power Nap?

While it's fine for small children to take naps in the afternoon (and even necessary for their mood and energy levels), our culture generally frowns upon mid-day sleep for working adults. However, many people (even those who get enough sleep, but particularly those who don't), experience a natural increase in drowsiness in the afternoon, about eight hours after waking.

A Harvard University study showed that a midday snooze reverses information overload. “Burnout,” irritation, frustration and poorer performance on a mental task can set in as the day wears on. Their study proved that in some cases napping could even boost performance back to morning levels. The bottom line is, we should stop feeling guilty about taking that power nap at work.

How long should a Power Nap last?

Power naps are very short compared to normal sleep. Evidence suggests that an average power nap duration of about 20-30 minutes is most effective. The short duration of a power nap is designed to prevent nappers from sleeping so long that they enter a normal sleep cycle without being able to complete it. Entering a normal sleep cycle, but failing to complete it, can result in a phenomenon known as sleep inertia, where one feels groggy, disorientated, and even more sleepy than before beginning the nap.

Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning. These short 20-minute power naps for people who are really engrossed in their work, almost always provide a fresh burst of new ideas and energy. They tend to eliminate the need for caffeine boosts during the workday. And, they guarantee a reserve of energy so that the working day isn't followed by an evening in which you fall asleep on the couch watching TV!

Tips For a More Effective Nap

  • The first consideration is psychological: Recognize that you're not being lazy; napping will make you more productive and more alert after you wake up.
  • Try to nap in the morning or just after lunch; human circadian rhythms make late afternoons a more likely time to fall into deep (slow-wave) sleep, which will leave you groggy.
  • Avoid consuming large quantities of caffeine as well as foods that are heavy in fat and sugar, which meddle with a person's ability to fall asleep.
  • Find a clean, quiet place where passersby and phones won't disturb you.
  • Try to darken your nap zone, or wear an eyeshade. Darkness stimulates melatonin, the sleep- inducing hormone.
  • Remember that body temperature drops when you fall asleep. Raise the room temperature or use a blanket.
  • If you don't want to nap a long time, set an alarm.
  • If you don't have time for a power nap, or don't feel comfortable napping during the day, try meditation; it gives your body a rest and produces slower brain waves similar to sleep.
  • Remember that brain activity stays high throughout the day with a nap; without one, it declines as the day wears on. Tell that to the boss next time he finds you passed out at your desk (or your hubby asks what you've been doing all day!).

all4womenArticle courtesy of
Author: Sasha Wyatt-Minter