Benefits of napping
Siestas, nana-naps, power-naps – call them what you will, but they have major benefits to brain function and wellbeing. Benefits to the body include better heart functioning, hormonal maintenance, and cell repair. It is believed naps help you live longer, stay more active, and look younger. They recharge the brain resulting in greater alertness, improved memory retention and creative insight. Napping can make you a faster typist, better dancer and improve motor skills and coordination. Effects on mental health include improved mood, decreased stress and greater psychological balance. Power naps increase memory by almost 20% during the remainder of the day
Researchers tracked 23,681 Greek men for 6 years. Those who napped 3 times a week had a 37% reduced risk of dying from heart disease
How little, how long?
Professor Leon Lack from Flinders University in South Australia led a study into the effectiveness of power naps. He says it’s the length of sleep that is crucial to our post-nap performance.
“Ten to fifteen minutes of sleep seems to be the optimum period in terms of improving mental operations, performance, reaction times and subjective feelings of alertness,” he says. “And that improvement in performance and alertness seems to be maintained for up to two and sometimes three hours after the nap. Interestingly, the five-minute nap just didn’t produce the same amount of improvement, while longer naps of 25 to 30 minutes led to subjects being somewhat drowsy and less alert for up to an hour after the nap.”
Generally, naps are best taken 6 to 8 hours after waking time. So if you’re an early morning person (gazelle) nap between 1pm and 2pm and if you are more of an afternoon/evening person (bear) nap between 2pm and 3pm.
Will napping make me feel groggy?
Have you ever fallen asleep on a lazy Sunday afternoon watching your favourite footy team, then woken up an hour or so later and felt like you’ve been whacked across the face with a wet fish? Well, that’s probably because you almost have. . .
A full sleep cycle lasts between 90 and 100 minutes, so waking up after 40 to 60 minutes will put you in phase 3 or 4 of the sleep cycle, also called Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). This groggy feeling is called sleep inertia and in terms of brain activity, is the polar opposite of wakefulness when the brain’s electrical activity is busily multitasking and operating on many frequencies. During SWS, we have almost completely tuned out the external world and our entire brain rhythm synchronizes into a slow, uniform pattern.
Sleep Inertia can be minimised by either shortening (20 minutes) or lengthening (greater than 90 minutes) the nap to avoid waking up in SWS. Otherwise, it can be quickly dispelled by physical activity, noise or other sensory stimulation (such as a shower) or, for those who must, with a shot of caffeine.
Do naps interfere with nighttime sleep?
No, as long as your nap lasts less than 3 hours and is completed at least 3 to 4 hours prior to your normal bedtime. Light sleepers or people with insomnia are advised to nap 7 to 8 hours before bedtime.
Working under fatigue
When you’re sleepy, you are seven times more likely to make an error. Some of the worlds greatest disasters have been directly attributed to fatigue including Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez and the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
Sleeping on the job
Airline pilots and air traffic controllers already have sleep breaks built into their work routines. A culture shift encouraging napping is starting to take place in the US, where high profile corporations including Google, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble and Saatchi & Saatchi have added Energy Pods to their work spaces.
In Australia, leading companies including Salesforce, the Australian Institute of Sport, PWC and subsiduaries of BHP have also invested in Energy Pods.
- keep naps to 20 minutes or greater than 90 minutes to avoid sleep inertia
- ensure you have a quiet, well ventilated room
- clear your mind, breathe slowly and deeply to help switch off and relax
- if you’re going to nap at work –make sure you have permission!
- best to nap 6 to 8 hours after normal wake up time
- shift workers can use a late afternoon nap to help stay alert during the night
- use naps to recharge, refresh and reinvigorate the body and the brain
- book a session in our Enery Pod!
The Energy Pod
I’m really excited about our newest arrival at The Performance Clinic. We have just received the latest recovery technology called an Energy Pod. Looking like something out of The Jetsons or from the movie Gattica, the Energy Pod harnesses science and NASA technology to help keep you alert, energised and power through the afternoon slump.
Research conducted at Harvard highlights a 20-minute nap significantly improves performance on repetitive perceptual and cognitive tasks. The Energy Pod is designed on a 20-minute cycle to allow five minutes for falling asleep and fifteen minutes of naptime. According to their research, fifteen minutes is the optimal nap time during the afternoon to recharge the batteries.
How does the Energy Pod work its magic?
- A room within a room
The spherical shape of the Pod’s upper body provides you with a semi-private acoustical and visual environment.
- Cool to the touch
The Pod’s upholstery breathes and remains cool. It is durable and stain resistant, and its internal fibers maintain their shape despite hours of daily use.
- Ergonomic perfection
The Energy Pod inclines forward to allow for easy entry, and then reclines to allow for optimal positioning. The slight elevation of the feet promotes blood circulation, while the elevation of the knees takes pressure off your lower back.
At the timer’s expiration, the occupant is gently woken with a combination of lighting and vibration. The nap is purposely kept to 20 minutes to ensure there is no experience of ‘grogginess’, known as sleep inertia, on waking. While an Energy Pod combines the latest technology to give you an energy boost and minimize fatigue, people have been enjoying the benefits of napping for thousands of years.
(main sources: School of Medicine, Flinders University, SA; Metronaps, )