A short daytime nap is often a great way to reinvigorate ourselves. Even for people who sleep soundly for 7-8 hours at night, it might be beneficial. Why?
Because after 08 hours of wakefulness, naturally human body feels a bit drowsy and cognitive abilities are slightly hampered. In that case, an afternoon sleep, more commonly known as power nap can offer some advantages.
A power nap can be identified as brief period of sleep, which aims to supplement normal sleep. The objective of power napping is to give a much-needed kick to the energy level.
Power naps can help recover from sleep deprivation, unless it is due to sleep disorders. According to Dr Sara C Mednick, a cognitive neuroscientist and sleep researcher from University of California, 15-20 minutes of sleeping in daytime can provide many benefits. She identifies this as an opportunity to rest the system and enhance the motor performance.
How long should the power nap be? Doctors say that it has to be short, like 20-30 minutes. Such a duration will offer all the benefits of sleep and at the same time, prevent the grogginess associated with a longer time nap.
Sleeping more than half an hour during the day may also have a detrimental effect on the nighttime sleep.
There are several benefits like increasing focus, concentration, alertness, reaction time, short term memory etc. It can also improve the mood.
Many people use coffee as an alternative to napping. The caffeine will keep them awake and prevent daytime sleepiness. But is that good? It may not be as the deleterious effect caffeine has on our memory performance can actually make us error prone.
When and how
If someone really decides to take a power nap, how should it be done? First of all, consistency is the key. The best time to have the nap is between 1 to 3 PM. About 20 minutes sleep during this time period is significantly more effective than 20 minutes extra morning sleep.
The nap should be taken in a quiet, preferable dark place, away from all the commotion. To keep the nap time in check, an alarm should be set. Additionally, it is better to avoid any caffeine after 3 PM since it can disrupt the sleep cycle.
Power naps will be most effective for those with a regular and healthy sleep routine. Usually these people fall asleep quickly, which is critical to have a good power nap. If that is not the case, we need to work on that.
Sometimes, the day is so hectic that it is almost impossible to take time for a power nap. In those situations, we can just close our eyes for 05 minutes. Such a brief rest can help reduce stress a little and offer a small window of opportunity for relaxation. However, this is different than a microsleep or power nap.
A note of caution. If someone has sleep disorders, e.g. insomnia, sleep apnea, then a power nap is not helpful. This needs consultation with a physician and adopting the proper treatment approach.