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Are Power Naps Useful or Do They Ruin Your Sleep?

By Sara Butler

Are Power Naps Useful or Do They Ruin Your Sleep?

Naps are often associated with babies and toddlers, but those aren’t the only groups of people who take advantage of a little afternoon siesta. According to the Pew Research Center, as many as one-third of American adults are indulging in naps. So even if you don’t take naps yourself, you know someone who does.

Of course, there is not just one type of nap. There are naps people take to try and catch up from sleep deprivation the night before and naps that help to prep shift workers for staying up later than usual. And then there is the power nap.

Power naps are meant to be less than 30 minutes long, but do they provide you with the benefits of nighttime deep sleep without impacting falling asleep at the end of the day? They might, which is why many work cultures have embraced napping as a way to boost productivity.

How Do You Take a Power Nap?

A power nap is no ordinary nap. If you want to take a power nap, the name of the game is to make them short and sweet.

Power naps work by harnessing the natural sleep cycles that humans go through when sleeping. Each stage of sleep is unique, with some being deeper than others. To go through a full sleep cycle, it takes about 90 minutes. The point of a power nap is not to complete an entire sleep cycle of 90 minutes but to instead sleep for from 10 to 30 minutes, with the ideal length being between 20 minutes and 30 minutes. This amount of time will provide you with the refreshing benefits of sleep without causing you to wake up drowsy and feeling out of sorts.

What Kind of People Need Power Naps?

When most people are feeling tired, they simply reach for another cup of coffee or a sugary pick-me-up from the snack machine. That’s not a winning strategy for alertness and can have some health consequences in the long term. If you find you’re struggling to stay alert during the day, aside from thinking more about how to improve your sleep at night, you’re the kind of person who should embrace the power nap.

Almost anyone can benefit from a power nap. Napping regularly has been shown to reduce stress and reduce a person’s chances of developing heart disease. So, grab that eye mask and get napping!

Why Have Companies Embraced the Power Nap?

There are many reasons why some employers may encourage their employees to take power naps during the day, reasons tied to the health benefits of a proper power nap. Some of these employers even offer nap rooms or nap pods to help their employees catch some Zzz’s.

Aside from power naps helping the napper to not feel so tired, they also help to improve:

  • Focus
  • Reaction time
  • Concentration
  • Mood
  • Short-term memory
  • Alertness

If you’re not doing a good job of sleeping at night, then consider adding a power nap to your daytime schedule to help. Just remember that setting an alarm is important to help you from sleeping too long and waking up feeling groggy. And if your company doesn’t make time for naps, perhaps it’s time to enlighten them about the benefits of power napping and how it can even boost your productivity as a worker.

Do Power Naps Prevent You From Sleeping at Night?

In general, a short power nap will not stop you from sleeping well at night, nor will it impact your sleep quality. However, for anyone who may be suffering from insomnia or getting poor sleep at night, a nap can make things worse. Additionally, naps that are too long -- or even short naps that are too frequent -- can interfere with your ability to get to sleep at night.

Napping is an art form, which is why it’s important to find the nap length that is just right to help provide you with all the benefits without taking away your ability to sleep well when it’s time to hit the hay.

Tips for an Awesome Power Nap

If you’re struggling to understand how to harness the power of the power nap, then you need to follow a few helpful tips. These include the following.

  • Timing - When it comes to power napping, timing is everything. Set your alarm for 20 minutes, which should allow your body enough time to get about three minutes of stage two sleep, which will help you feel rejuvenated.
  • Create the right conditions - You need to create a great space to fall asleep fast since you’ve only got 20 minutes. Create a surface that is comfortable to lay on. Find a room that can be darkened (or is already dark), and make sure it’s quiet so you’re not distracted by noise. White noise apps on your phone can help if you’re in an environment where noise might be a problem.
  • Avoid frustration - If you’re not tired, don’t take a power nap. If you can’t fall asleep, then you may become frustrated, which will defeat the entire purpose of trying to nap in the first place.
  • Pick the right time of day - The afternoon is generally the best time for a power nap, usually about eight to nine hours after you’ve woken up. Just make sure that it’s at least four to five hours before you plan to try to go to bed for the night.
  • Understand you may not sleep - The simple act of laying down quietly and relaxing can make you feel refreshed, so if you don’t fall asleep, that’s OK. Simply relaxing in a quiet room can improve your memory too.
  • Optimize your schedule - If you have tasks you know you need to complete that require a lot of brainpower, then schedule them after your nap time. You’ll feel more alert.

Now that you understand how to power nap like a professional, see how you can put it to work in your daily life -- and still get to sleep on time at night.

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