The Power Nap

Sleep is a much sought after, yet often elusive element of everyday living. The average body requires seven to eight hours of sleep a night to keep in top performing shape, and while many of us strive to reach that optimal amount of shut eye, with busy schedules and overworked brains, sleep can evade us. Which is why doctors, professors and nutritionists consistently crow about the benefits of power napping.

A power nap, the ideal being about 20 minutes of sleep during the day, has numerous benefits and restorative powers that can help us function at peak performance levels throughout the day.

Studies have shown that power napping can result in more energy and alertness, increase productivity, reduced stress, improved memory, learning enhancement and better reaction time.

Getting a regular amount of sleep reduces the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which has a direct impact on the body’s weight. When cortisol levels are high due to lack of sleep or stress, they increase the chances of weight gain. Missing sleep or getting an insufficient amount during the night can also slow the body’s metabolism. Napping serves as a supplement for sleep deprivation, and can kick-start your metabolism back to its fighting level and keep cortisol levels at bay, ultimately keeping your weight in check.

Naps can also enhance to brain’s capacity for learning, improving information retention. Studies consistently show that those who nap perform better on memory tests in contrast to those who don’t. They also show that those who nap acquire new skills more quickly then their non-napping counterparts.

While it may seem like the more sleep you can achieve the better, sleeping longer than 20 or 30 minutes can leave you feeling groggier than before you slept, a side effect known as sleep inertia. Sleeping an extra 30 minutes into your power nap while begin the sleep cycle normally present at night, but won’t allow you to complete it; making it harder for you to reap the benefits.

If power naps are starting to sound more appealing and you’re thinking about taking them on a regular basis, make sure to do it at the same time, every day. Your body will become used to these bouts of sleep and come to expect them. However, napping sporadically, only a few times a week and at different times of the day can upset the body’s circadian rhythm, making it difficult to get on a regular sleep schedule at night.

Experienced day-sleepers, or those who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, might want to try taking what is known as a caffeine nap. For a caffeine nap, drink caffeinated coffee or tea right before going to sleep, setting your alarm to go off 20 minutes later. That’s about how long it will take for the caffeine to kick in, so when you awaken, you will be extra energized. Although caffeine naps should be reserved for late morning or early afternoon, as having caffeine anytime after 3 p.m. will make falling asleep at night more difficult.

If caffeine naps aren’t your thing, be to sure to get up immediately after your alarm goes off. When you get up, start moving to get your blood flowing and speed the wakening process. Do some light exercise by jogging in place, doing a couple crunches or dancing around the room. Turning on a bright light or washing your face will also help you feel more refreshed.

It may take time to get used to sleeping during the day, as it doesn’t come naturally to some, and our cultural generally looks down upon sleeping during the day, as many consider it lazy. But the benefits speak for themselves, resulting in not lazy or sluggish people, but healthy, refreshed and high-performing individuals.

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