We could all do with a power nap at some time or another. But many people find they wake up late, or wake up feeling groggier than they were before. So what is the right way to power nap?
The benefits of power napping range from boosting alertness to consolidating muscle memory. The benefits aren’t constant though – in fact different lengths of power nap bring markedly different benefits.
- 10 minutes – a ten minute power nap help you to concentrate more effectively, and make you more alert. What’s more, these improvements can last for up to four hours – not a bad return for 10 minutes investment.
- 20 minutes – at twenty minutes you still get the benefits of improved alertness and concentration. However you also start to see improvement in your memory, especially around your powers of recall. At twenty minutes you are also still unlikely to enter deeper sleep, which means that you’re much less likely to wake up with that groggy feeling of “sleep inertia”.
- 45 minutes – this will take you through a one stage of REM sleep. The benefits of REM sleep are seen on waking in a greater level-headedness and ability to cope with difficult situations. If this is the effect you’re looking for then bear in mind that you’re more likely to enter REM sleep between midnight and midday, rather than from noon onwards.
- 60 to 90 minutes – this length of time will see you enter deep sleep. The benefits of this are in your ability to learn. During a sixty to ninety minute power nap your brain will consolidate your memories, moving them from short term to long-term memory. As well as improving your ability to learn and retain new information this deep sleep will also help to improve your ability to develop new muscle memory. So this length of time is also useful if you’re learning an instrument, a skill, or a sport.
Having chosen the optimum length for your power nap what then is the best way to go about it?
Firstly think about some of the same rules as you would for sleep hygiene – you need to be warm, not in direct light, and somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. You also need to lie down, as sitting compromises your ability to get to sleep, and the quality of any sleep that you may have.
Finally, be strict about getting up from your power nap, and becoming physically or mentally active again. Don’t be tempted to give yourself another few minutes – in power napping less can definitely be more.
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