If you find yourself running out of mental and physical energy toward the end of the workday, forgo that extra jolt of caffeine or sugar and go for a power nap instead. Napping can improve your mood, make you more alert and enhance your physical performance too. If you think naps are for lazy losers, think again. Nap advocates include seven time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong, former president Bill Clinton, and scientists Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. Hardly the sort of people you’d put into slouch category.
Another brainiac to add to that bunch is Dr. Sara C Mednick of the Salk Institute at the University of California in San Diego. Today, she is among the foremost authorities on napping. But it wasn’t always so. As a graduate student at Harvard, shots of espresso and splashes of cool water on her face kept her going through her rigorous academic schedule. One day, she flopped down on a ratty old couch in the psych department. That nap changed her life and her life’s work. Her book, Take a Nap, Change Your Life, Workman Publishing, details napping tips and some surprising benefits of the midday snooze like improving skin and tissue regeneration, and contributing to weight loss.
According to studies cited by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), inadequate sleep — less than seven or eight hours of sleep each night –- creates long-lasting changes to one’s ability to think and function well during the day. Getting enough sleep on regular basis is the best way to stay alert and feel your best. But when fatigue sets in, a quick nap can do wonders for your mental and physical stamina.
The National Sleep Foundation offers these guidelines for maximizing nap time:
- Power Nap: 20-30 minutes. This type of nap improves alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep. Set an alarm (most cell phones have them) to avoid stressing out about waking up.
- Sleep in Peace: Obviously you want to snuggle into as comfortable place as possible Wherever you are, try to keep noise and light to a minimum. While some studies have shown that just relaxing time in bed can be beneficial, it is better to try to catch some zzzs while there.
- Don’t Force it: Listen to what your body needs. If you take a nap too late in the day, it might affect your nighttime sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. If you try to take it too early in the day, your body may not be ready for more sleep.