As someone who works long hours and at home, nothing gives a boost to my productivity like a power nap. I’m also a bit of a night owl, so I rely on my power naps during the day to get work done during the day.
Napping isn’t just for preschoolers; adults can also greatly benefit from a good power nap. In fact, napping on the job is a part of Japanese working culture! Napping has not only been linked to greater productivity, but also other health benefits such as reduced stress and lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Biologically, different napping duration can have a huge impact on how you feel afterwards. This is because human sleep cycles have specific durations at each stage. You may have noticed that while some naps leave you bright-eyed and rejuvenated, others can leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. This is because you have woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle.
The goal with naps is to have them long enough for you to feel re-energized, but not too long that you fall into deep REM sleep. REM sleep is the long, continuous sleep cycle you have at night, where your body is busy repairing itself and rejuvenating.
In REM, your brain waves slow down and is characterized by rapid eye movements (REM stands for rapid eye movement). If you fall into this deep sleep stage, it becomes harder for you to wake up, which is why you feel drowsy after napping for too long.
The 20-minute nap
According to Sleep.org, the optimum nap duration should be no more than 20 minutes. Here, the 20 minutes is the lighter stages of non-REM sleep where you reap the benefits of higher alertness and better productivity, but it is still easy for you to wake up.
For me personally, this works well but the issue I had was falling asleep in time. Most of us have experienced that inconvenient feeling where when we’re finally ready to sleep, our brain starts wandering off and thinking about random things. So, you may want to give some extra time for you to actually fall asleep.
Frequent meditation sessions also helped me fall asleep faster during my naps and declutter my brain. If you have trouble falling asleep, try focusing on your breathing for the first few minutes and you’ll see yourself dozing off before you know it.
The 90-minute nap
90-minute naps are also recommended by researchers because this is long enough to complete one sleep cycle. There are also huge cognitive benefits of this type of nap. A team of researchers from the University of California, Mednick et al found that people who took 60-90 minute naps performed just as well on a visual task as having a full night’s sleep.
Other research studies also show that 90-minute naps contribute to better memory. A study by Matthew Walker, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkley, and his colleagues found that a 90-minute nap significantly improved learning and memory retention.
The coffee nap
This was by far my favorite nap routine because it allowed me to combine my love of coffee with a refreshing nap. In a coffee nap, you drink coffee a short while (15-20 minutes) before you take a 20-minute nap.
Researchers believe that coffee naps are more effective than regular naps because caffeine competes with a chemical called adenosine for receptors in the brain. Adenosine is responsible for making you feel sleepy. It is slowly eliminated during sleep. So, effectively caffeine has better access to receptors during a nap because it has to compete with less adenosine.