Everything You Need To Know About Naps Now

Naps are awesome.

A daily 20 minute nap around the same time gives you renewed energy for hours, stimulates creativity, improves the mind and greatly reduces stress.

Perpetual fatigue is a common problem in today’s world. According to a study by YouGov, the majority of Americans are tired most of the week (4 out of 7 days).

The art of napping can act as a powerful way to counter exhaustion. There is, however, a kind of science to it.

Ironically seen as a luxury or a sign of laziness, napping is in fact a strategic and efficient tool that, when done correctly, can enhance productivity, creativity, and overall life satisfaction. 

This is especially helpful for people over 40.

The Science of Napping

There is a science to napping.

A sleep cycle consists of several stages, broadly categorized into two phases: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

During the initial stages of sleep, we experience NREM sleep, which is divided into three stages: N1, N2, and N3.

N1 is the transition from wakefulness to sleep, N2 is a light sleep stage, and N3 is deep sleep, often referred to as slow-wave sleep (SWS). SWS is particularly important for physical restoration, immune function, and overall recovery.

As the sleep cycle progresses, we enter REM sleep, which includes vivid dreaming, and heightened brain activity. REM sleep is also associated with cognitive functions, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation.

Short naps, typically lasting 20 to 30 minutes, can enhance alertness, mood, and performance. These brief naps primarily target the lighter NREM stages (N2), preventing us from entering deep sleep (N3) and making it easier to wake up feeling refreshed.

However, longer naps, usually exceeding 60 minutes, may incorporate full sleep cycles, including deep NREM and REM stages. While such naps can provide a good rest, they may lead to grogginess and disrupt nighttime sleep if taken too close to bedtime. 

Optimal well-being (the best condition we can be in) is also closely tied to the completion of full sleep cycles, as each stage plays a unique role in maintaining physical and mental health. Disruptions in these cycles can lead to issues such as a groggy mind, mood disturbances, and a vulnerable immune function.

In addition, napping can positively impact cardiovascular health. A study conducted by the American College of Cardiology in 2019 found that regular napping was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events, particularly in individuals over the age of 40. Naps have been suggested to help lower blood pressure and reduce stress, both of which are important factors for heart health.

The Benefits Of Napping

Napping has many benefits

Napping can be a powerful. It’s been found to help with overall well-being and happiness, cognitive function, and emotional balance. When done correctly and brought into a daily routine, naps can offer various benefits. 

One of the main advantages of napping is its ability to enhance mental rejuvenation and alertness. 

Aging after 40 naturally brings about physiological and psychological changes. While wisdom and experience tend to increase, the mind’s speed may decline, and memory lapses become more common. 

Short naps, typically lasting between 10 to 30 minutes, can provide a quick energy boost and improve alertness without causing mental fog.

During this brief period of rest, the brain also has the opportunity to reset, leading to increased focus and productivity upon waking. This is particularly beneficial to maintain concentration throughout the day.

An article in Harvard Health Publishing explains the benefits regular napping has on the brain, especially for those in their 40s.

Additionally, napping has been linked to improved memory consolidation.

The process of consolidating memories involves transferring information from short-term to long-term storage. Naps, especially those that include a phase of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, have been shown to enhance memory retention and the ability to recall information.

Stress reduction is another benefit.

Naps act as a natural stress reliever by providing a break from the demands of daily life. The relaxation achieved during a nap can help lower cortisol levels, which is the hormone associated with stress.

Napping also can have a positive impact on mood elevation.

Sleep is closely connected to emotional regulation, and insufficient sleep is often linked to irritability, mood swings, and increased susceptibility to stressors. People have reported improved emotional well-being, increased patience, and a more positive outlook on the day from regular napping.

Some Napping Strategies 

There are strategies to a good nap.

Generally, a short power nap of around 10 to 20 minutes can offer a quick energy boost. This also is without the risk of entering deeper stages of sleep and experiencing grogginess upon waking.

For those wanting a more profound rejuvenation, a longer nap of 60 to 90 minutes can encompass a full sleep cycle, including deep and REM sleep. This has been known to enhance creativity, and memory, and improve moods.

However, it’s crucial to avoid waking up during the deep sleep phase, as it can lead to a temporary period of disorientation and mental fog.

Timing is key when it comes to napping without disrupting nighttime sleep. 

The ideal time for a nap is generally in the early afternoon, between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, which aligns with the body’s natural circadian rhythm and the post-lunch dip in alertness. Napping too late in the day or for an extended period can interfere with nighttime sleep.

You also want to create the right environment to nap where possible. 

Preferably a quiet, dark, and comfortable space is best. You may want to consider using a sleep mask or blackout curtains to block out light. Set an alarm to ensure you stick to the desired nap duration and avoid oversleeping.

Here Are A Few Power Nap Techniques

A power nap is a short period of sleep, usually about 10 to 20 minutes. It’s supposed to quickly revitalize and rejuvenate the body and mind, enhancing alertness, mood, and mental performance.  

Unlike longer naps that may be subject to a state of grogginess known as sleep inertia, power naps, if done correctly, provide immediate benefits without disrupting your daily routine. 

As described earlier, there are many benefits to power naps.

First, they can significantly boost alertness and combat feelings of fatigue.

Power naps have also been linked to feeling better and increased creativity, as the brain has a chance to organize information during these short bursts of sleep.

Interestingly, a power nap can also help with memory and learning.

Here are a few techniques for getting the best results from naps.

Keep it Short

Try to keep the napping to no more than 20 minutes. 

Choose the Right Time Consistently

Ideally, try to schedule your power nap around the same time every day. It’s been advised that early to mid-afternoon is the best time. This is when the body’s natural dip in alertness often happens.

This also generally doesn’t interview with your bedtime hours.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Find a quiet, preferably dark, and comfortable place to nap. Consider using a sleep mask and earplugs to block out light and noise.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Take a few minutes to engage in deep breathing or meditation before your nap to promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep quickly.

Consider Caffeine Right Before

Consuming a small amount of caffeine (a cup of coffee) just before your power nap can enhance its effectiveness, as caffeine takes about 20 minutes to start affecting alertness.

The idea is that when you awake in 20 minutes, the caffeine will be in full effect.

This technique is often counterproductive, as many people often cannot start napping before caffeine kicks in. Trial and error is the best way to figure the timing out.

Set an Alarm

To prevent oversleeping, set an alarm to ensure your nap remains within the desired time frame.

Keep in mind, these are some tips and techniques that have worked for many. However, you may have a different approach. As long as you get the results you want, do whatever is best for you. 

Overcoming Napping Challenges

There are ways to overcome napping difficulties.

While napping can be awesome and very beneficial, improper timing or the duration may interfere with the quality of nighttime sleep, leaving you feeling uneasy and restless. Worse yet, when you decide to nap, you may find yourself unable to achieve NREM, resulting in frustration and irritability. 

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to these challenges other than trying a few different approaches and seeing which works best for you. 

If you find yourself frustrated and unable to effectively nap, you may want to try some or all of the following.

Set Your Intention To Rest

As overly simplistic as it may appear, making or setting a personal intention to nap and enter the stages of NREM gives a clear message to the body. It starts the preparation process psychologically that napping is about to happen. The intention sets the stage.

Part of the intention includes a handful of actions as well. If you’re a coffee drinker, try to limit your caffeine intake to the early morning, and after the time you set for your naps. The same goes for when you eat and exercise, as this plays a part in sending the right message to your subconscious. 

Be On Time

Part of being able to nap is about creating patterns. To establish one, do your best to initiate naps at the same time, or as close as possible every day.

For me, it’s always at lunch. I prefer not to eat at work and as such, during my lunch break, I have a nap. When that time rolls around, my body knows it’s about to shut down for roughly 20 minutes.

Learn To Sit Still And Breathe 

Do your best to sit still, not moving a muscle. Then breathe. It doesn’t have to be deep, but it helps.

More important is to breathe slowly, but also to pay attention to the air coming in and out of your lungs. Focusing on your breathing, if done long enough, relaxes the body and slows the mind.

The longer you can do this, along with the intention to nap, the more likely you’ll naturally enter one. 

Patience and Persistence

Developing a napping habit takes time and persistence. Be patient with yourself, and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately.

Keep going.

Anyone can do this, but not everyone is willing to go the distance. It’s worth the effort and reaps many rewards. 

Diet And Exercise Are Still Important

Diet and exercise help with having naps.

Much like the impact it has on your nightly sleep and as per another article I wrote, diet and exercise determine the effectiveness of your daily napping routine. 

The foods you consume significantly influence your ability to nap effectively.

Avoid heavy, greasy meals close to nap time, as they can lead to discomfort and make it harder to relax. Instead, try to eat a light, balanced snack that includes a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein. A piece of fruit with a small handful of nuts is a good example. These snacks provide a steady release of energy without causing a spike in blood sugar levels, allowing a more restful nap.

Regular exercise is another part of a successful napping routine.

Physical activity not only contributes to overall health but also helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week is recommended. However, try not to exercise too close to your nap as it may leave you feeling energized, making it difficult to unwind and fall asleep.

Some Famous People Swear By Napping

Famous people like Elon Musk swear by napping.

Elon Musk

The CEO of Space X and Tesla, outspoken supporter of the cryptocurrency Dogecoin, has spoken about taking power naps to recharge during demanding workdays.

Musk openly acknowledged the benefits of napping and the importance of proper sleep. 

Winston Churchill

One of the most iconic political figures of the 20th century, Winston Churchill was known for his regular afternoon naps. Despite leading the United Kingdom through World War II, Churchill believed in the rejuvenating power of a short nap, claiming it enhanced his cognitive abilities and helped maintain peak performance. He is on record famously quoting, “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures.”

Leonardo da Vinci 

Da Vinci’s unconventional sleep patterns were documented in historical accounts, revealing that he followed a polyphasic sleep schedule. This methodology included several short naps throughout the day and night. He claimed the approach allowed him to maintain a high level of creativity and productivity in art, science, and engineering.

Albert Einstein

One of the greatest scientific minds in history, Albert Einstein was also a proponent of regular napping. Einstein reportedly valued his naps and believed that they played an important role in his cognitive processes. He often used short naps to recharge his mind and enhance his problem-solving abilities, which he believed contributed to his work on theoretical physics.

Try It For A Month

The benefits of napping are significant and act as an excellent counter to fatigue and mental drain. The art of napping is a constant tool at your disposal, so why not use it? 

Consider making a 30-day commitment to nap every day for about 20 minutes.

During the initial days, it may be difficult to incorporate a nap into your daily routine. However, once you do, and so long as you are consistent, you should notice a boost in your overall energy levels.

As I wrote earlier, napping is often underestimated in its ability to rejuvenate and enhance cognitive functions. 

By the end of the 30 days, you may discover that committing to a daily nap not only enhances your productivity and mental clarity, but also allows for a healthier relationship with rest. 

Until the next time, cheers.

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