Power Nap Improves Mental and Physical Health, Experts Say

By Amy Taylor on March 16, 2012

Amidst a very tight schedule, many of us find it impractical to take a nap in the middle of the day. That’s totally true if you work full time from 9am to 5pm. But according to research, sleeping for at least one hour during midday reduces stress level and lowers blood pressure.

The World’s Illustrious Cat-Nappers

Many of the world’s most popular personalities believe in the power of taking a short time-out during a very busy and stressful day. In fact, Winston Churchill was the one who coined the term ‘power nap’. For him, sleeping in the afternoon gave him the clarity of thinking he needed to win the war. Churchill would normally start his day at 6am. He would answer letters and give instructions to his secretaries while having breakfast on bed. Then it’s time for all the workaround. This would be followed by a long lunch and some sipping on watered-down whisky. At 4.30pm he would have his ‘power nap’ and it would last for a solid 2 hours. Then at 6.30 he would rise and will continue working. John Kennedy did the same. After lunch, he would climb to bed and would not allow telephone calls and letters to bother him unless it’s an emergency. His wife, Jacky, would join his nap every day. Thomas Alba Edison, a remarkable scientist claimed he can spend 72 hours straight wide awake and working. But his secret was revealed by his assistant. Actually, Edison sleeps during the day for about 3 hours! He even described his sleep to sound as ‘a bug in a barrel of morphine’. Margaret Thatcher was also known for cat-napping. She would order her assistants not to disturb her between 2.30 and 3.30pm so she can sleep. Other great individuals who take a nap each day were Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Johannes Brahms.

The Power of Nap

By giving yourself time to sleep even just for an hour, you make yourself healthier. When you nap, you reset your system and gain more alertness and motor performance. It also boosts your energy levels. Dr Sara C. Mednick, the author of ‘Take a Nap! Change Your Life’ said that the longer the nap is, the better it is for your health. She and her team of researchers found that 30-60 minutes of napping improves memory and decision-making skills while 60 to 90 minutes of napping improves brain function and ability to solve problems. Christopher Ketcham at the Men’s Journal describes what happens when we sleep during the day. The initial stage of sleeping allows the brain to sink into an electrical brain activity which relaxes muscles and slows down respiration. Next is a light stressful sleep. At this stage, breathing and heartbeat goes back to normal and the body’s temperature drops down.

How to Take a Power Nap 

1. Know your ideal nap zone. It should be 12 hours after the midpoint of your night time sleep. So if you went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 7 am, the best time to sleep is at around 3pm.

2. Find a good place. Your desk may not be a good sleeping area. Look for a more comfortable place in the office. A darker place increases the production of melatonin which in turn improves the quality of sleep. You can also leave work during your coffee break, go to the park and find a quiet place. Then close your eyes and have some nap. You can also ride a bus and sleep while it takes it route.  

3. Use some sleeping accessories. You want to make your power nap as comforting as possible. Using eye-mask and pillows can be really helpful. You can also turn on your MP3 for a more relaxing nap.

4. Give time for transition. Give yourself at least five minutes after napping to go back to your senses. Maybe you can wash your face, wipe your eyes, or breathe in and out.

So why not take a break and have some power nap? Even the busiest people do it, even the world’s greatest leaders. Why can’t you?

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