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The Power Behind "Power Naps"

By Krista Elliott

Naps. Hated by toddlers, longed-for by parents, and poorly hidden by your dad after a big dinner ("I was just resting my eyes for a minute!"). Naps have the power to transform your day, so why should only the potty-training contingent get to enjoy them? 

Maybe you've tried napping before, only to wake up bleary-eyed, with a headache, and feeling twice as tired as you did beforehand. Or maybe you just "can't" nap, and wind up stressed out and frustrated by your inability to drift off. Why do we need napping anyway?

How Naps Help

People benefit from naps in multiple ways. First off, it's a pretty well-established fact that most adults in our society are sleep-deprived. Instead of the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night, most adults get around six hours, leaving us tired and seeking sleep at other times. While it's best to get the majority of your sleep at night, if that's just not possible, a nap can help bridge the sleep gap. 

A brief nap during the day can also help boost your ability to learn and retain new information, your creativity, and your ability to concentrate. As well, it can act as a reset switch for your emotional health, lowering the irritability and mood swings that can come with fatigue. 

How to Nap -- The Right Way

"I'd love to nap," you say. "But I always wake up feeling like I've been run over by a truck!" 

You may think feeling tired after a nap means that you haven't slept for long enough. On the contrary, post-nap grogginess usually means that you napped for too long. 

Naps of 20 minutes or less can help your concentration and mood. During naps of this length, you usually don't fall completely asleep. Instead you may be in that dreamy, drifting state where your mind starts to wander aimlessly and any outside noises have a muffled, faraway quaity. 

A nap of around 45 minutes will include some rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which further enhances your concentration and memory, and helps your brain process and file away new information. 

The "danger zone" for naps is between 45-90 minutes. That is when your brain is in deep sleep, and it's very hard to wake up, and nigh well impossible to wake up refreshed. If you have the time to take a nap of longer than 90 minutes (lucky you!), then you will go through a full sleep cycle, which helps clear your mind, repair your body, and make up for lost sleep. 

Just be sure to set an alarm for your desired sleep time, especially if you've been given the OK to take a brief power nap on your work break! 

By incorporating the right kind of nap into your day, you're well on your way to a refreshed and energized mind and body. 

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