Written by: Allyson Hoffman
Updated March 19, 2021
Have you ever felt a post-lunch dip in your work performance? Maybe you have difficulty concentrating or struggle to keep your eyes open. Perhaps you and your colleagues stifle yawns together as you wait for the coffee pot to refill after lunch. Thankfully, a power nap can help you combat afternoon drowsiness.
A power nap is a short nap that provides the energy boost you need to function for the rest of your day. Power napping has plenty of benefits. First, napping contributes to your overall health. Taking naps boosts the immune system and reduces stress levels (1). Research shows that taking one to two naps per week can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases (2) such as heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
As an employee, a short snooze can increase your alertness and productivity (3). A NASA study found that after a 26-minute nap, pilot performance improved by 34% (4). Naps also promote creative problem solving and help strengthen memories (5).
Because naps have such a positive impact, napping in the workplace is a trend employers are picking up on. Some companies even provide their employees with designated places to sleep on the job.
How Long Should a Power Nap Be?
A power nap is most effective when it’s short and sweet. Try keeping your power nap length between 10 and 20 minutes (6) for best results.
The trick to a power nap is getting your body through stage 1 sleep and into stage two sleep (7), but not into stage three sleep. During stage one sleep, your body slows down (8). This stage transitions you from wakefulness to sleep and is only a few minutes long. Stage 2 is a light sleep in which your muscles relax and your breathing and heartbeat slow down even more.
If you nap for too long, you risk entering stage 3 sleep. You sleep deeper in stage 3 sleep and may struggle to wake up as a result. This stage ensures you feel refreshed in the morning after a full night of sleep. Keep in mind if you nap into stage 3 and then wake up, you might feel groggy or more even tired than you were before taking the nap.
When Should You Take a Power Nap?
For typical day workers, the best time for a power nap is before or during the time you'd usually experience a post-lunch slump, such as around 12:30 or 2 p.m. (9). People working a traditional schedule don't want to nap too late in the day because it could cause them to struggle to fall asleep at night. However, shift workers may benefit from a nap in the middle of the night or early in the morning (10).
How to Take a Power Nap
Want to get the most out of your afternoon nap? The following tips may help.
Find a Good Sleep Environment
It’s best to keep your sleep environment dark, quiet, and cool (11). If you work from home, you can lie down in your bedroom. If you work in an office, you may have to improvise. Draw the blinds in your office or rest in your vehicle. If your company offers a sleep space, take advantage of it.
Use Sleep Accessories
Depending on your environment, sleep accessories might help you become more comfortable. At home, you may already have a routine for falling asleep fast. In the workplace, consider keeping a sleep kit at your desk.
To block out excess noise, use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. A fan or a white noise machine can also cover noisy distractions. Use a sleep mask or hang a dark curtain to eliminate light. A blanket, pillow, or neck pillow can help you feel more comfortable sleeping at your desk for a short period.
Keep Your Space Distraction-Free
When naptime rolls around, set your phone aside. You want to avoid scrolling and get to sleeping. Plus, the blue light emitted from a phone screen can make falling asleep more difficult (12).
If you’re in an office, schedule yourself as busy during your naptime. Put a sign on the door to discourage any unwanted knocking.
Consider Adding Caffeine to Your Nap
To get even more power from your power nap, drink a cup of coffee (13) before you snooze. Research shows that the caffeine and nap combination eliminates the midafternoon peak of sleepiness. Even if you relax and don’t fall asleep, you can still feel the effects.
Keep Your Eyes Closed
If you struggle to fall asleep at nap time, use it as an opportunity to rest and relax. A brief period of quiet can help you recharge and refocus. Consider trying meditation to achieve relaxation (14) during your rest time. You may find it easier to actually fall asleep over time, as your body adjusts to your new midday rest schedule.
Don’t Hit Snooze
Don’t give in to the temptation of the snooze button. If you still feel a little sleepy after your nap, engage in active tasks. Do a few jumping jacks or take a brisk walk. You want to signal to your body that naptime is over and it's time to wake back up.
Experiment to Make Power Naps Work for You
If you have difficulty sleeping seven to nine hours each night (15) or find yourself in a post-lunch slump, a power nap can perk you up. Mastering the art of the power nap may take some practice. Experiment with nap length, time of day, and location to find what feels right for you.
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- https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/patient-caregiver-education/understanding-sleep Accessed on March 18, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26016658/ Accessed on March 18, 2021.
- https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/napping.html Accessed on March 18, 2021.
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- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/ Accessed on March 18, 2021.