A power nap is a 20 minute bout of sleep just long enough to make you feel refreshed, but not so long that you feel groggy.
During this little bit of sleep your brain gets some time to do some behind the scenes tinkering to help with memory consolidation and flush out some of the waste proteins that build up during the day.
Power naps are not for everyone, most notably if you have insomnia you should not even think about napping during the day. But for the rest of us, even those who get sufficient sleep, a power nap can be a useful addition to the day and a great way to enhance your overall flow.
So let's get into how to optimize your naps.
Choose the right time
Humans are built to sleep, and not just during the night. We are actually optimized to utilize free moments during the day too. Following the body’s circadian rhythm, the best time to nap is 13:00 - 15:00. This is when the body starts craving sleep again but is not too close to night time to disrupt our nightly rest.
Additionally, the afternoon is most likely right after lunch. Carbs and protein cause an increase in serotonin which can cause sleepiness also commonly known as the “food coma”. So what better time to nap?
In order to avoid going into deep sleep and waking up groggy, 20 minutes of sleep is ideal. Meaning 25 minutes total effort, taking the assumption that you will take five minutes to fall asleep.
If you're worried about not being able to fall asleep quickly during this short time frame, chances are you might be mistaken. In the early stages of sleep, you often don't even realize that you've drifted off – your thoughts and dreams blend seamlessly. Unless you're actively dwelling on something, it should go smoothly.
So, don't stress about your ability to doze off; you'll likely reap the benefits of the nap either way.
Find a comfortable spot
You may have seen people take a nap hunched over at their desks, but if that can be avoided, do so. Any place where you can get horizontal is preferable. If you work from home this is certainly easier to figure out, just sleep in your bedroom. But for optimal sleep quality, make sure that your room is cool, dark and quiet.
Put your phone on "Do Not Disturb" mode
It is best to avoid little distractions because you won’t be entering deep sleep and therefore are more easily woken up. Even on silent, the vibration is audible. Our brains are fine-tuned to notice phone vibrations. Don’t allow your phone to get in the way of naps. You can also invest in ear plugs or a white noise machine.
Set an alarm
Of course at some point you do want your phone to disturb you. It’s best to not forget to set an alarm or you’ll be under for hours, which will waste time, make you groggy, and make it harder for you to sleep at night.
Utilize noise canceling headphones
If you have any small headphones that are in-ear, these are not too shabby to wear during a simple nap. They do a great job of keeping away distracting noises, and can even be used to play something soothing instead.
Practice relaxation techniques
If your mind is racing you might find it tough to fall asleep. Use this opportunity to try and clear the mind as best you can. Focus on your breathing or the weight of your body pressing against the couch/mattress.
Have a coffee nap
A caffeine nap, often referred to as a coffee nap, is thought to boost alertness and productivity. The idea is simple: enjoy a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso right before your power nap. It’s thought that the timing of caffeine's peak effectiveness in the bloodstream, roughly 20 minutes, aligns just right with the duration of the nap. This means you get the benefit of sleep and right as you wake up there's a boost of caffeine.
This, of course, depends on the person. Some people get jittery too quickly for this to work, but it might work really well for you.