What was your favorite thing about kindergarten?
It was naptime for me. It was that glorious afternoon moment when the curtains would be drawn and the lights dimmed and we toddlers would all curl up on a cot to fall asleep. After spending hours coloring and singing the alphabet song, we deserved to take a break.
As I grew older, napping became less and less common. It was until recently.
Businesses like Google Huffington Post and Uber have all jumped on the napping bandwagon in recent years. Many employers have created special nap pods or rooms for their employees.
Let me explain how naps fit into the life of an adult who works hard. They do, and they should. The science behind naps and how you can make napping a superpower.
Why you should nap
You might think that napping is only for sleep-deprived babies, college students, or cats. But, they may all be on to something.
According to Gallup’s poll, more than 40 percent of Americans sleep less than the minimum seven-hour recommendation per night. Lack of sleep has become so common that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared it a health issue.
Insufficient Sleep can negatively affect your ability to focus, alertness, and productivity. Exhaustion can also increase your risk of accidents and stress.
Napping is a great way to relax.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers sought to determine what the most effective methods were for getting past the midday slump. It’s that time between lunch and late afternoon, depending on your sleeping schedule. You feel like you are moving at a snail’s pace and struggle to stay upright. It’s real.
Researchers compared the effects of napping, caffeine, and getting more sleep at night. Napping was by far the most effective.
It is important to nap when you are feeling fatigued, stressed or burnt out. Researchers found that subjects who napped were better able to handle stressful situations. Improved cognitive function is accompanied by increased energy and creativity.
A well-rested brain (top) will show a much greater level of activity than a brain that is exhausted.
Napping has also been shown to have many health benefits. A 6-year study concluded that napping regularly actually promotes health. Researchers studied 23,000 people and concluded that those who napped three times per week, for 30 minutes on average, were 37% more likely to survive a heart disease.
You need to take more naps.
Here’s a TedX presentation by Dr. Sara Mednick. She is a sleep researcher and the author of Take a Nap! Change your life, a TEDx talk by Dr. Sara Mednick, a sleep scientist and author of Take a Nap!
Most of us who nap feel guilty. Napping can make entrepreneurs feel lazy. Napping is a waste of time that could be better spent on something productive like work.
But let me tell you a secret: the key to productivity doesn’t lie in managing your time. It lies in managing your energy.
Time spent without energy is waste.
You should not view naps as a waste or as a sign that you are lazy. Instead, consider them as an investment in your energy. You might be able to get a little work done while tired. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to perform at your peak performance the rest of the time?
You can find the right nap for you
Let’s find the best nap for you now that we know the benefits of naps.
emergency napping is the first thing you should avoid. This type of napping is only done when you are so tired that you cannot do anything else. This is also known as crashing and usually indicates that you are running on empty.
Take a look at your sleeping habits and schedule to see if you are taking these emergency naps often. Napping alone might not be enough to solve the problem.
You should aim for planned naps where you choose the time and duration of your nap rather than just dozing off.
It is the length of your nap that will determine how effective you are.
research shows that ultra-short power napping can improve your declarative memories, which is the type of memory we use to remember specific facts and information.
The best time to nap is when you are feeling sluggish.
For years, famous artists and scientists such as Einstein and Salvador Dali have praised the power nap. They all believed it was the key to unlocking creativity.
This is because there are three different stages of sleeping. First, you enter alpha wave sleep. This is when your body starts to relax but is still aware of its surroundings. Theta wave sleep follows, which is when your subconscious begins to work and you are falling deeper into sleep.
After approximately 10 minutes your body begins to transition from theta to alpha waves of sleep. These two waves start to overlap. This state lasts only a few moments, and the mind cycles through abstract thoughts, emotions, ideas, and memories. It’s like you are just awake enough to dream, but asleep enough to begin.
You will often be bursting with creative ideas when you awaken after just 15 minutes.
Dali invented the ” key method” to ensure that he slept the correct amount of time. He would hold a small key above a metal surface, and as he fell into a deep sleep, he would let go of it and wake up. You can set a phone timer in your case.
A nap of 20-30 minutes works best for most people. This is short enough to avoid falling into a deep sleep and feeling the effects (like feeling groggy or disoriented when you wake up from a deep sleep). It’s just long enough to make your body feel refreshed and rested.
NASA conducted a study to determine the effects of napping on 747 pilots. NASA concluded that each participant napped on average for 26 minutes per day. The nap improved performance by 34%, and alertness increased by 54%.
This nap helps to improve cognitive function and declarative memory, and it also reduces sleepiness. This is a great way to boost your energy if you’re feeling sluggish at midday.
If you are having trouble solving a problem, it may be worth sleeping on it. You may have noticed that the longer you sleep, the more beneficial it is for your brain, problem-solving, and nervous system.
The average sleep cycle takes 90-110 minutes. If you nap for more than 60 minutes you are entering deep sleep, which increases your brain’s ability to process information.
In a study conducted at Berkeley, students who took 90-minute naps had significantly better functions in the hippocampus. This is the part of the mind that controls memory. Students who took naps were 40% more likely to remember and learn facts than those who did not.
You will be able to perform better throughout the day if you get a full cycle of sleep.
However, there is a downside. It’s also a bigger time commitment, which you might not be able spare, unless there’s an exceptional circumstance, like a short night of sleep.
It’s important to avoid napping too long or too little, as this can lead to sleep inertia. Hard.
Try drinking coffee before taking a 10-minute power nap if you want to boost your sleep and stay awake for longer. It may seem counter-intuitive, but caffeine and power napping are a perfect match.
Many studies have shown that you can combine both and still get the best of the worlds.
We’ll need to learn a little bit about sleep science and the brain to fully understand this.
Melatonin and adenosine are the two chemicals that cause sleepiness. Melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland in your brain, is affected by how much natural light your body is exposed to. Adenosine is produced by the body as a by-product when it consumes energy.
The longer we are awake, the more adenosine is present in our bodies, which makes us feel more tired.
Caffeine is a miracle drug for college students who are tired because it blocks our brain’s response to adenosine. Adenosine is displaced by coffee at the brain party. After drinking coffee, you may feel more alert or energized.
The reason why the nap casino works well may be due to the fact it takes caffeine about 15-20 minutes for it to enter our bloodstream. This means that you have about 15-20 minutes to sneak in a power nap!
The napping will naturally remove some of the adenosine that causes sleepiness, allowing the caffeine to arrive at the party without any competition.
You will not only feel refreshed after a nap but also have caffeine in your system. You’ll feel the effects of caffeine starting to kick in.
In a clinical study, where one group of students was given coffee before napping and another group received a placebo, those who had caffeine in their system showed significant improvements in their cognitive abilities, reaction times, and Executive Function.
Before you go to sleep, drink a cup or two of coffee. Set an alarm for anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes to boost your productivity.
Understanding your sleep patterns
The general rule is to nap between 1 pm and 4:00 pm. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different and their sleep needs can vary greatly.
Take a look at Thomas Edison who, according to reports, slept less than four hours per night. He would take a nap or two throughout the day to rejuvenate himself.
Edison had cots for daily naps stashed in his factories and laboratories.
To get the most out of your nap, you need to understand your body’s natural rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s internal timer, which determines when you will naturally feel more energetic at certain times during the day. Evolutionarily, it appears that the body was not designed for 16 hours of continuous sleep.
It’s normal to feel tired around seven hours after you wake up. This is why we feel our productivity plummeting around noon.
As I mentioned earlier, everyone has a different circadian rhythm, so determine whether you are a morning or night owl.
You should nap around 1 pm if you wake up at 6 am. If you are a night owl who wakes up around 10 am, then the best time for naps would be 4 pm. You want to base the ideal napping time around when you first get up.
It’s important to be aware of your body’s energy level because you’ll want to time your naps correctly to get the best out of them. You can nap when you need it most and have enough energy to get through the rest of your day.
Start scheduling your naps as if they were important meetings.
Try apps such as Sleepbot or Pillow to better regulate your nap schedule.
Faster fall asleep
Let’s address the biggest problem that people face when napping, which is falling asleep.
You can’t fall asleep right away if you are a light sleeper. You’ll find many reasons why you cannot close your eyes at night.
It could be too loud noises, an irritating light, or stress. It can be harder than you think to get to sleep. There are also ways to optimize your sleep.
Let’s first start building a habit area around napping. A habit field is an assortment of attitudes, behaviors, and memories that we associate with a particular object or place. This is why it’s difficult to work in bed or on the sofa, as your brain automatically recognizes that these are places of relaxation.
You can create a habit field that will help you fall asleep more easily when you are in that place or with that object.
You can fall asleep by simply putting on a mask or listening to a playlist. You might be lucky enough to have an office with a nap room or even a quiet space that you can occasionally use.
You want to build up your habit field by doing as many things as you can. Try to nap around the same time each day.
Then, you can do some meditation by focusing on your breath. When I want to nap at the Foundr offices, I plug in my headphones, play some ASMR, and then crash out for 15 minutes on the beanbags.
You could also invest in an Ostrich pillow. Snickers, damn them.
Enjoy the outdoors
After you have taken a nap, start moving around and, if possible, go outside to get some sunshine. You don’t have to run a marathon or work out, just get your blood flowing.
It’s not just important to plan a good nap, but what you do afterward is equally important.
No matter how long your nap was, you will feel groggy or sleepy afterward. Sleep inertia, depending on the length of your nap, can last for up to an hour.
It’s annoying that naps don’t feel as if they do much for you. At least, not the way caffeine gives that instant boost of energy and alertness.
Exercise is the best way to fight this feeling. Exercise is an energy booster that will help you overcome the initial feeling of grogginess. It’ll also help regulate your sleep patterns so you can nap more easily in the future.
It is possible to get the same results by doing a few light stretches, but I personally prefer jumping rope for several minutes.
Sunlight is important for overcoming sleep inertia. Natural light affects melatonin (one of the two chemicals that makes us sleepy). The more sunlight your body receives, the less melatonin it produces.
You can “reset” your mind by taking a stroll around the block. This will help you switch from sleep mode to work mode more quickly.
You can also wake up quicker by drinking water and eating a small snack.
what you eat and drink can also affect your energy levels. Drinking a glass of cold water can kickstart your metabolism, letting your body know it’s time for you to wake up.
Have you got some great nap hacks?
Try these techniques now that I have punched your train ticket to Sleepytown. Keep a journal about your napping habits and mood to gain perspective. Watch your productivity and mood soar higher than you ever thought possible.
No matter how you use these napping hacks, do not give a second thought to the stigma that is sometimes associated with midday naps. Napping is frowned upon by corporate culture. You got into entrepreneurship because you wanted to break these rules, right?