Maybe you’re a hopeless insomniac, or maybe you just want more focus so you can kick butt at your job. Whoever you are, you’re probably here for one reason: you want to get serious about naps.
Awesome! And getting more sleep is a great reason to ramp up your napping efforts. But did you know that power napping also yields a bunch of other health benefits? It does. And some of the health benefits can significantly improve your overall health, lifespan, and risk for disease. Check it out.
What is a Power Nap?
A power nap is a short nap (duh) that ends before you enter deep sleep. The idea (and term) for power napping came from a guy named James Maas, who outlined the concept in a work called Miracle Sleep Cure: The Key to a Long Life of Peak Performance.
The purpose of a power nap is to fall asleep and wake up before you enter slow-wave sleep (or SWS), which is where deep sleep occurs.
And that’s the tricky part, because if you slip into deep sleep during your power nap, instead of waking up feeling refreshed, you can wake up feeling even more tired than you were before.
For a quick rundown of how to actually power nap, check out this video:
How Long Should a Power Naps Last?
Different people recommend different nap times. But, of course, they’re all short. The most common recommendation is a 10-15-minute nap. Some experts recommend naps as short as 6 minutes, while others recommend 20-minute naps.
They all work, more or less, as long as you’re not napping for more than 30 minutes, which is when your brain starts to slip into la-la land.
What Are the Health Benefits?
1. Boost Your Alertness
The main benefit for power napping, of course, is boosting your alertness.
A scientist named Rajiv Dhand outlined the effect of naps on alertness in an article titled “Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults” in 2007. The study was rather extensive, but the gist was basically that a nap as short as six minutes long can (1) improve performance and productivite, (2) reduce fatigue and even (3) help you learn.
2. Improve Your Memory
Another study found that “…an ultra-short episode of sleep is sufficient to promote declarative memory performance” (from Journal of Sleep Research, 2008).
We’ve known that sleep improves memory for a long time, really. The breakthrough of this study was the verification of the hypothesis that you can retain those memory-boosting benefits even you sleep for a little while and wake up (a power nap).
3. Reverse the Damage Cause by a Poor Night’s Sleep
We’ve all had restless nights, but not many people know that losing sleep can actually cause damage, which is a big part of why you feel so crappy the day after not getting much sleep.
Specifically, staying awake all night can cause hormonal damage that isn’t corrected until you sleep again. This is where the term “sleep debt” comes from.
However, researchers have found that you don’t need to sleep for a whole night to pay your “sleep debt.” According to a 2015 ScienceAlert study called “Napping May Be Able Reverse the Damage of Sleep Deprivation,” even a short nap can ameliorate most of the negative side effects of sleeplessness.
4. Fight the Effects of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) affects approximately 42 million adults in the United States alone. And it can really be pretty dangerous; it’s often a precursor to other, more serious health conditions, like heart disease and stroke.
There are a few problems with sleep apnea. First, it often causes extreme fatigue. Second, it occurs whenever the sufferer slips into deep sleep.
Power naps get around both of those problems, since it (1) restores wakefulness and reduces fatigue and (2) ends before deep sleep occurs. In fact, in addition to CPAP and other therapies, doctors often recommend the humble power nap to people with chronic sleep apnea.
Want to Give It a Try?
Everyone can use a power nap. There are just so many benefits. They can help ameliorate the effects of serious diseases, or they can just help you skyrocket your performance (which is why we see so many progressive companies installing napping stations in their offices.
Below, we’ve included a relaxing soundtrack for a 20-minute power nap. So, if you want to give it a try, push play and close your eyes.