Taking an afternoon nap might be a distant memory from your days as a lazy, hungover student. But, can power napping improve your life as a fully-functioning adult? Research shows that a power nap could have tons of physical and mental health benefits, from weight loss to improved cognitive function.
What is a Power Nap?
Power naps are short bursts of sleep that last around 20 minutes. This type of nap has been proven to help reduce the effects of sleep deprivation and improve mental alertness. The reason power naps are short is because they’re the most effective way to boost short-term alertness without feeling groggy or unable to sleep at night. During a power nap, you don’t drift into sleep inertia, which is the beginning of a deep sleep that could leave you feeling groggy upon waking.
What Are The Health Benefits of Power Naps?
In our busy lives, sleep deprivation isn’t uncommon. When we lose sleep, we feel tired and our bodies have to work harder to function, causing a rise in the stress hormone, cortisol. Taking a 20 minute nap can bring down our cortisol levels, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Using power naps to make up for lost sleep can minimise the effect of sleep deprivation on our work, mood and relationships. If you’ve got more time to spare, taking a 90 minute nap is recommended. Why? Because a 90 minute nap will see you complete one full sleep cycle. It’s important to be wary of how long you nap for, as anything longer than 30 minutes will see you begin a sleep cycle, so waking any sooner than 90 minutes in could have a detrimental effect on your day.
Remember, it can take you a while to actually fall asleep – particularly during the day. If you need tips on falling asleep quickly to maximise your power nap break, try these tips.
Do Power Naps Make You Lose Weight?
In addition to cortisol, sleep deprivation causes a rise in our hunger hormone, ghrelin. By taking an afternoon power nap, you may reduce sugar cravings and phantom hunger that leads to overeating. While it may not directly lead to weight loss, a power nap can help reduce cravings and aid in weight management.
Power Nap or Coffee?
If you find yourself feeling weary during the day, resist the urge to reach for your favourite coffee hit. Caffeine remains in your body for hours after consumption. Studies have shown that we can lose hours of quality sleep at the hands of that sneaky afternoon latte – even when enjoyed as many as 6 hours before bed. If you can, ditch the coffee and set aside 20 minutes for a power nap. You’ll feel more alert for the rest of the day, and still be able to sleep at nighttime.
Power Napping At Work
While it might not be your bosses favourite suggestion, power napping at work has been proven to boost productivity. In fact, the benefits of power napping are actually amplified when used in context of the working day. Taking a short nap of around 20 minutes during your working day can improve alertness and efficiency.
To avoid feeling tired during your working day, aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Everybody responds to sleep differently, so listen to your body and find what works for you.