History is full of people who took naps. No I didn’t mean the Roman emperor Nero but more like Aristotle and Winston Churchill.
British Prime Minister Churchill didn’t miss out on his nap even during World War II. In his memoir, Gathering Storm he shut down the notion that you don’t get work done if you sleep.
He wrote in his book, “Nature had not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
Nature had not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion [naps] which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.
Catalan artist Salvador Dali actually gave a guide on how to take the ultimate nap in his 1948 book, Salvador Dali: 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. His technique involved lying in the armchair, holding a metal object, preferably a key. Once you fall into deep sleep, the object will drop and create a clang. Instantly you wake up. Albert Einstein followed the same pattern.
You get the idea.
Most of us need this nap after a long morning of staring at a screen, attending numerous phone calls and chasing deadlines. In fact, this little snooze of 20 to 40 minutes revitalizes your senses and gets your focus, concentration back on track. A drink of coffee gives the added jolt to the senses too.
A nap, not a deep sleep
In the late 1990s, James B Maas, an author and professor at US-based Cornell University, took credit for the term ‘power nap’ and advocated the importance of a 20-minute doze. He defined a power nap as something that doesn’t last more than 10 to 15 minutes, but just enough to get you through the day, yet not so much as to put you in a deep sleep or cause nocturnal insomnia.
Psychiatrist CB Binu from the Al Fasht Medical Centre in Sharjah breaks it down further and says, “The shorter the nap, the more effective it is, as research has proved. The first 10 minutes are more instructive than a 20- to 30-minute nap because you have the benefit of alertness and improvement in your mood. If you take a longer nap, you’ll be groggy and more disoriented.”
He adds that a longer nap can be counter-productive and explains it with sleep stages. “There are two parts of sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and N-REM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. When you lie down for sleep, you have a very light REM and then it gets deeper into the NREM stage. That is the deep sleep. That’s when your heart rate comes down, and your brain activity slows down. Then you go back into the REM, where your brain activity comes back to almost wakefulness, the heart rate and activity level return.”
Binu shares that when you take a nap in the afternoon, it should stay light and shouldn’t go into the deep sleep. “That’s why when you wake up, you aren’t groggy and you do not have the tiredness of a longer sleep.” He adds that it is advisable to take a nap earlier in the afternoon rather than later, as it affects the night sleep.
He also adds that naps are beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety and have panic attacks. “They tend to be tired much faster than others. So, their energy levels are lower.”
...naps are beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety and have panic attacks. They tend to be tired much faster than others. So, their energy levels are lower.
There have been several lengthy studies on the efficacy of power naps. In the book, It’s About Time, mental health coach Mitzi Weinman notes that owing to our 24-hour circadian rhythm of sleeping at night and being awake in the morning, we are physiologically programmed to be awake at certain times. This siesta is beneficial when the night sleep is shorter, and this nap makes up for the lack of sleep as well. She also cited her interview with Dr Lawrence Epstein, an American expert in Sleep Medicine, who advises taking a nap when you need to be alert to do something. For instance, prior to a long drive, take a nap of around 30 to 40 minutes.
Back in 2013, when napping in workplaces was laughed at, companies like Proctor and Gamble (P&G), Goldman Sachs paved the way and conducted programs to ensure that their employees could get good rest. Moreover, P&G went one step ahead and invited American sleep expert Nancy Rothstein to give a lengthy presentation on how to sleep better. Companies like Facebook have now installed ‘nap pods’, where employees can take a quick power nap at work. There’s a designated room with couches and chairs, just so that people can catch some shut-eye.
In the US Google offices, fatigued employees can take a comfortable afternoon nap in an EnergyPod. It’s almost like a bed, where the person can lie down and shut out the noise for a while. The pods ensure that the noise is kept to a minimum and also have some mattresses.
Why should we nap?
“It makes a lot of sense to take short naps,” says Binu. There are several advantages of napping in the afternoons. He adds that a person’s memory gets a boost, and there’s a better chance of productivity enhancement among other things.
Napping offers various benefits for adults, including:
• You’ll feel more relaxed
• Your fatigue reduces
• Increased alertness
• Improved mood
• Improved performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory
• Better concentration
• Better focus
How to take a power nap
Here are some tips to help you take an ideal power nap:
Set an alarm
Don’t let your afternoon siesta turn into a marathon sleeping session. Set an alarm, so you can wake up after 20 to 30 minutes.
Keep it early
Try to squeeze in a nap earlier in the afternoon, so that you don’t lose your night sleep, leading to a loss of sleep.
Make sure you have a comfortable environment
If you have had an extremely stressful day, make sure your environment is comfy and cosy. Make sure it is quiet, bereft of too much light, so that you don’t get interrupted during your sleep.