The hurried life we are all subjected to nowadays means that most people do not get enough sleep every night. For that reason, it makes sense to rest or take a short nap in the early afternoon to boost your productivity. A power nap is classified as a nap of about 20-30 minutes taken in the daytime. After 20 minutes, the brain enters a much deeper sleep, called slow-wave sleep. If you are woken from this state within a short while, you will actually feel worse than before your sleep – this is called sleep inertia. Here are five ways to get the best out of your power nap.
Eat for Success
What you eat and drink during the day will influence your body’s ability to fall asleep on demand. Consuming caffeine, fatty foods, sugar and carbohydrates, especially within an hour of nap time, will be counter-productive and prevent you from being able to fall asleep quickly enough. The ideal thing to do is to drink a glass of warm milk about 60 minutes before sleeping, as protein and calcium make you drowsy and comfortable.
Have a Routine
You can train your body to be ready for a power nap by following the same routine every day. Do the same things before your nap and then sleep in the same place, at the same time and for the same length of time every day. The comfort of the familiar and the expected will also relax you and allow you to anticipate the pleasure of the rest period.
Comfort and Sleep
The place in which you nap should be conducive to rest. Ideally it should be on a bed and wooden bed frames double up as comfortable power nap places if they have good mattresses. At work, a couch or even a floor mat with a comfortable pillow and blanket will do. Switch off the lights or wear an eye mask. Darkness stimulates the brain to secrete melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy. You could play soft, relaxing music, such as classical or other calming instrumental music. A sound machine can create ambient or white noise that cuts out distracting background noises.
Once you are lying down, relax. That sounds obvious, but you should make a point not to think about problems at work or home. Try to clear your mind and practise deep-breathing techniques to slow down your heart rate and prepare your body and mind for sleep. Worrying about problems is probably the single most important reason why people suffer from insomnia. Don’t feel guilty about sleeping at work – you are preparing yourself to work hard for the rest of the afternoon. You might even find that your subconscious finds solutions to problems while you are asleep. The traditional idea of “sleep on it” often works!
Set an Alarm
Always set an alarm to wake you up after no more than 30 minutes. If you sleep longer than that, you risk being groggy and not having had the benefit of the power nap. Knowing that the alarm will wake you will also allow you to relax. After about a minute of gathering your thoughts, wash your face and do a few minutes of exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging in place. You will find that this gets you ready for a productive afternoon and an evening at home with your family.