At I Say Organic, every New Year is a chance for us to incorporate new healthy habits into our lifestyle. In 2015, we’ve decided to incorporate power napping into our daily schedule. Here’s why.
“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” – Winston Churchill
What is a power nap?
A power nap is 20 or 30 minutes of sleep in the afternoon. It rejuvenates your body and mind and gives you extra energy for the remainder of the day – be it for work, play, working out, family time or anything else. Throughout history, brilliant historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Eleanor Roosevelt and Thomas Edison have sworn by the rejuvenating effects of power napping.
Totally natural – how napping is a part of culture and our biological make-up
Over 85% of mammalian species sleep polyphasically i.e. sleep for short periods during the day. Despite being mammals, humans have retrained their brains into sleeping only at night – the effectiveness of which is up for debate. Kids and elderly adults nap everyday – and all are the better for it. Just think of how kids are always full of energy after their afternoon nap – despite starting out with more energy than adults in the morning. Naps and siestas have also been a cultural phenomenon in many parts of the world. Italy and Spain, in fact, are two countries where the post lunch siesta is well-entrenched.
The benefits of power napping
Studies of power naps have shown that they contribute to work productivity, lower stress levels, higher focus and more positive moods. With a nap, brain activity is high throughout the day. Without the nap, brain activity declines towards the end of the day.
Most respondents from these studies also reported improved alertness and memory retention, the ability to work on one task while holding in memory others, sharpened motor skills and better stamina. NASA proved that a nap of 26 minutes can improve performance by up to 34%.
An online poll revealed that over 63% of respondents get only 6 hours or less of sleep at night. According to experts, that’s at least 1.5 hours less than is ideally needed. The deep sleep you experience at night is called slow wave sleep. A nap reduces activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, yet doesn’t allow the brain to get into slow wave sleep, letting you get refreshed, without letting you lapse into night-time-like sleep. In these sleep deprived times, a nap is like manna from heaven.
A power nap should last 20 to 30 minutes.
Recommended for everyone, an ideal power nap lasts from 20 to 30 minutes, which is the duration of two sleep cycles, enough to re-energize the body. Any longer and you might risk sleep inertia, the groggy feeling of not enough sleep that might prevent you from focusing. So keep an alarm, but keep within 30 minutes. To figure out your ideal nap time, experiment. Start with 20 minutes and vary till 30, figuring out which time works best for you.
On the days when you’re at home or on weekends and vacations, you can and should enjoy longer nap of one to two hours, which allows you to complete an entire sleep cycle, including deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement, an absolute necessity of night-time sleep). Winston Churchill, in particular, napped for 2 hours a day, allowing himself to work through the night and thus get twice as much done.
Find a relaxed position, and drift off.
Find a position that suits you and allows you to sleep comfortably. Once you’ve committed to a power nap, don’t stress about unfinished jobs or to-do lists. Start by taking deep breaths, slowing each exhale. Count up to 10 breaths. You should be relaxed enough to nap now.
Figure out where and when.
During your lunch or coffee break is the best time for power naps. You might also want to find a space that isn’t near your workstation and will not impede your colleagues about their daily routine. If there’s a bean bag or a relaxed lounge chair, see if you can commandeer it for 20 minutes a day. Or explore the possibility of a yoga mat with a small pillow. Eye shades and restful music might help too.
Power your nap with the power lunch!
As part of an organic lifestyle, we advocate against unhealthy fat, sugar and heavily processed foods. Turns out that these disturb sleep too. Try eating healthier, including portions of calcium and protein. Avoid coffee right before you sleep too as caffeine stimulates the nervous system.
If at first you don’t succeed, try till…zzzz!
You might not be able to drop off the first or even second time you try. This is a new habit that you’re going to train your body into. It might take a few days. Try to sleep or relax at the same time, in the same space, for the same duration for a few days – and your body will soon pick up the hint.