Some days it seems that from the minute we wake up we’re fighting the urge to go back to sleep again. Whether working late, driving long trips, stuck in the middle of a project or working around the house, a power nap can be the energizer you need to give yourself a boost to the finish line. Make sure you do it right though or you’ll find yourself sleeping the afternoon away and feeling worse than before!
The Benefits of a Good Power Nap
Having a good power nap can increase alertness, improve mood and energy, boost productivity and creativity and help turn a bad day into a great one. On top of that, it can protect you from an entire world of fatigue-related errors spanning from mundane typos and careless oversights to possible lawsuits involving workplace accidents or even deaths from sleeping at the wheel. A 15 minute power nap can be the key to protecting you from any of these.
What Makes a Good Nap
You should shoot for fifteen to twenty minutes for your power nap. Any longer and you could risk suffering from sleep inertia – the state where you wake up feeling even more tired than you were before, usually unable to shake it for the rest of the day.
The time you set apart for your nap will vary depending on a lot of factors. While you may only sleep for 15 minutes it may take you another 15 to fall asleep in the first place. For best results plan for this based on what you know about your own sleeping habits.
What you’re going to need:
- A good place to rest
- Control of the light
- Control of the noise
- A way to time your nap
Prepping the Location
The key to a great nap is a great location. But you don’t have to have a 5-star hotel suite to get some great rest on your break. You may find yourself anywhere from an office or an airport to the employee breakroom or even your car. The key to a great location involves being prepared for your surroundings.
The one thing you may not be able to control is what you take your nap on. If you’re at home that shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise, make sure you can find a comfortable chair or couch to sit in. In an airport or other public location, you may be able to find a coin operated massage chair – whether you use the massage functions or not.
If you have an office, it’s worth locking the door if possible. Post a note for employees to know when they can come back to bother you. Do the same at home with the kids if you can. If you find yourself in a place where you can’t be isolated, follow these next steps to make the most of your nap time.
Control the Light
For the most effective nap, you’ll want to dim the lights where possible. This can be done easily where you’re in control, but anywhere else will take a little work. Buy yourself a good sleep mask or eye cover to block out excess light. It may look silly, but it will be worth it.
On the other hand, covering your eyes in a bustling public place may make you nervous. That’s normal. In this case simply do your best to keep your eyes closed and relaxed.
Control the Noise
Nobody can sleep when the world is barking at them. If you can, use earplugs to block out any excess noise. Another option would be to use headphones and play some relaxing music. You can find some free relaxing mp3’s at sites like MusicRelaxation.com. You can even get tracks especially timed for your power nap with a “wake up” section at the end. You can get a couple free ones at Organic Family Circle or NapSounds.com. Some of these claim the benefits of enhanced brain wave technology to help induce a faster state of relaxation. You’ll have to test the effectiveness of those recordings yourself!
Time it Right
Oversleeping is the enemy. Not only will you miss your other responsibilities, but like mentioned previously, you’ll suffer the worst of sleep inertia for the rest of the work day. To avoid this, make sure you have an alarm handy that you can set easily when you’re tired. Invest in a kitchen timer to make it easier. You can also find one of the above mentioned relaxation tracks set to the optimum nap time, but make sure you have a backup alarm if you’re one to slip into a deep sleep fairly quickly.
Advanced Napping Techniques
If you want to experiment with more napping techniques, try the caffeine shot strategy. The theory behind it relies on the fact that it will take your body around 45 minutes to metabolize caffeine into your system. Before setting yourself down for the count, grab a cup of coffee or similar caffeine shot. By the time your nap is over, it should be close to kicking in giving you a great boost to get over any post-nap haze and return to your regularly scheduled responsibilities.
Also, if you don’t have time or don’t feel comfortable taking a nap, try basic meditation. Just try relaxing for a brief period of time. Grabbing copies of those relaxation sounds or nature cd’s can help when sleeping isn’t an option.
A Word of Caution
Avoid caffeine if your doctor requires it of you. It’s not worth putting your health at risk. Also avoid it if your find yourself needing a power nap late in the afternoon or evening. Taking it too close to bed time can interrupt your regular sleeping habits. Staying up too late at night will make you worse off the next day than if you hadn’t tried taking a power nap in the first place.
Also, never try taking a power nap when you could be putting others in danger. Don’t listen to relaxation music while operating heavy machinery. If you’re driving, be sure to pull off the road to a more than safe distance and make sure you’re in a safe, well-lit location. Also, when at work, make sure your company doesn’t have any kind of ‘napping’ policy. Check with your supervisor if you don’t have a designated break time. Never nap when you should be in a meeting or working on something else equally important where your job may be at risk.
Have a Great Nap!
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a great power nap! Speaking from experience, it could be the best thing to help you through the rest of your day. Here’s to a future full of great power naps!