The afternoon nap is coming back into style, and more and more studies are showing that certain types of naps help people be more productive and alert than they were before. Here’s what you need to know about naps so you can choose the one that’s right for you!
The Short Nap
Also known as the power nap, a short burst of sleep (between 10-25 minutes) can help boost your energy levels and may even reverse some of the effects of sleep deprivation for a few hours (National Sleep Foundation). The key is to wake up from the nap before you enter a state of deep sleep, which will actually have the reverse effect and leave you feeling more tired and groggy than you were before. Try setting an alarm so you don’t have to worry about oversleeping, then find a dark and quiet room where you can nap without being disturbed. You’ll wake up with significantly increased alertness and enhanced performance.
The Long Nap
If you are trying to catch up on sleep after an all-nighter or you need to quickly recharge between swing shifts at work, you should opt for the long nap. A nap lasting about 90 minutes will allow your body to complete a REM cycle and make you better able to cope with fatigue. This is especially beneficial if you are driving or operating heavy machinery as part of your job.
The Caffeine Nap
Studies show that drinking a caffeinated beverage immediately before taking a short nap will improve your alertness and productivity more than either caffeine or napping alone. The science states that caffeine takes about 15 minutes to kick in, so a short nap in the mean time will allow your system to reboot before the caffeine takes effect. If you’re planning a long road trip and you’re fighting off sleep at the wheel, this could help get you to the nearest hotel or rest stop.
The Nap Alternative
Naps can be a helpful as a short-term solution for sleep deprivation or increasing productivity in the afternoon, but you don’t want a nap to interfere with your normal sleep schedule. If you didn’t have time for a nap before 4 p.m. or napping isn’t an option at your job, experts recommend a brisk outdoor walk. Sunlight will naturally make you feel more awake and will inhibit the production of melatonin (a sleep inducing hormone). This alternative will help you maintain your nighttime routine so you’re not always trying to play catch-up on sleep.
If you enjoy an afternoon nap, you’re in good company. Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush were all well known for touting the benefits of a midday rest (National Sleep Foundation). So if you’re fighting off sleep, the best solution may actually be to give in and trust that your body knows best!