In April, I started a new job that had slightly different hours than my previous job (8-4 instead of 9-5). While this might not seem like it would make a big difference in schedule, it did! Paired with a longer commute and early wake-up time, I fell into a nap-hole. Seriously, ask E – she could set her watch by when I took naps and how long I took them for. However, my napping was totally erratic – sometimes it would be a half hour, other times it would be as long as 2 hours!
I didn’t want to change my sleeping schedule, but I wanted to start on a more regular nap schedule that was more effective than crashing for 2 hours after work. So I did what any good millennial would do – I started googling effective napping.
And guess what? Power naps are pretty damn good for you.
First off, let me hit you with a fun fact: 85% of mammals sleep more than once a day. Humans are in the smaller percentage of mammals who sleep only once per day, usually. While too much napping can be harmful, there is a science to the power nap. In fact, napping has some pretty cool side effects? What are they you may ask? Well:
- Improve our mood
- Assuage feelings of sleepiness and fatigue
- Good for our heart
- Can lower blood pressure and stress levels
Now that we know the benefits…what is the perfect amount of time to sleep? Well, studies show that the “optimal” power nap lasts between 10 and 30 minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of developing “sleep inertia”. Sleep intertia is, in science-y terms “state of impaired cognitive and sensory-motor performance that is present immediately after awakening.” Avoiding this will help you wake up feeling refreshed, instead of groggy.
Like anything, once you get into the habit your naps will be better. Your first few power naps might not feel like you’re getting much sleep, but keeping up the practice ensures you’ll get better at falling asleep more quickly. This can be aided by taking a nap at the same time every day, lighting a specific “nap” candle/using a specific “nap” lotion so that smell is associated with it, and even putting on certain instrumental music. Your body will eventually learn these cues and you’ll be getting to sleep quicker than ever.
Dr. Sara Mednick, who literally wrote the book on the life-changing effects of naps, even has an entire book that caters to planning the optimal nap. Her research claims that fitting a nap into your everyday schedule increases your alertness, boosts creativity,
and reduces stress. A daily nap may also reduce the risk of a heart attack, aid in weight loss, and improve memory. So, basically, a nap a day keeps the doctors away.