22 August, 2023
That sluggish part of the day, usually between 2pm and 4pm—you know the one, when you’re reaching for lollies, extra caffeine, and counting down the minutes ‘til home time—well, the latest research confirms that taking a nap during this time is exactly the right thing to do.
But to really reap the benefits of a power nap, a little strategy is required.
Our Top Power Nap Tips:
1. Try a pre-nap coffee
While you may find yourself reaching for an early afternoon coffee to fuel the second half of your day, combining that coffee with a power nap can give you even better results.
It sounds counter-intuitive, sure, but when we apply the science it makes a LOT of sense.
The key is when you have the caffeine: ideally about 15 minutes before your nap.
How does it work? Caffeine prevents the release of adenosine, the brain chemical that causes drowsiness, meaning you’ll skip the groggy stage following your nap. It also gives you an extra boost of energy to wake up with. That’s a win-win!
2. Timing is everything
Too short, or too early in the day and the brain doesn’t get the rest it needs. Too long, or too late in the day and you’ll experience increased sleep inertia and may have difficulty achieving quality sleep later on. Luckily there’s plenty of research to help us figure out the optimal length of a power nap.
The sweet spot is a length of 15-20 minutes, some time between 1pm and 3pm (or adjusted for shift workers, around 7 hours after your day begins). After 4pm, a power nap can disrupt your circadian rhythm.
This is ideal if you’ve had sufficient sleep the night before.
Bonus tip: For the sleep deprived among us to experience the same benefits, there is an exception to this rule. If you had a low quality sleep the night before, and you’re able to make the time, a full sleep cycle is perfectly appropriate. This is a 90 minute nap (also strategically timed, as above).
3. The nap environment
It can be difficult to find the time and the space to take your nap, but even if you aren’t able to access a cool, dark and quiet space with a bed (which would, of course, be ideal), there are some other things you can do to create the right environment.
If noise is an issue, try putting some white noise or gentle music through your headphones.
If it’s too bright, try using an eye mask.
And if there’s nowhere to lay down, sitting in a comfy chair will still do the trick.
In some work environments, it might be tricky to convince your boss that your daily nap is necessary to make you more productive and alert throughout the afternoon. You can start by incorporating it into your lunch or afternoon tea break, and let the results speak for themselves!
4. Nap preparation
Slowing down to the extent that you’re able to actually fall asleep in the middle of the day can be a challenge. Your tasks from the morning may be swimming in your head, and your tasks for the afternoon are stretching out in front of you.
A busy mind doesn’t generally result in quality sleep, so to prepare for your nap try some breathing exercises or a short meditation. Even on a busy day, this can slow you down just enough to give your brain the little rest it needs to harness the afternoon.
5. Post-nap movement
Once your nap is complete, you may experience a small amount of grogginess (although this is less of an issue when you make your nap the right length).
To combat this, do some light stretching and walk around following your nap. This will help your energy recover faster so that you can experience all of the nap benefits faster!
Power Nap Benefits
There’s almost no aspect of your afternoon that can’t be elevated by a power nap, and many benefits are long-term ones. So if you’re looking for a good science-backed reason to catch some afternoon zeds, you’ve got at least eight to choose from.
The humble power nap has been proven to:
- Improve alertness and productivity
- Recover alertness after lunch
- Be especially good for shift workers
- Improve cognitive functions: memory retention and learning
- Strengthen the immune system
- Reduce stress
- Support long-term cardiovascular health
- Improve psychomotor performance (movement, coordination, dexterity, strength, flexibility, and speed)
Check you’re doing it right
If you’re consistently sleepy during the day, a power nap may not be the solution to your problems. It’s important to first rule out sleep disorders like sleep apnea or issues with your circadian rhythm, as these can cause other problems and will need to be remedied first.
So switch the lolly jar (or the sluggish afternoon) for a power nap, and just see what happens. Chances are, you’ll be happier, healthier, and more productive!