Dame Kelly Holmes was recently quoted as advocating a power nap of 10-20 minutes between 1pm and 4pm in order to boost energy levels in the evening. She said “it helps lower your stress levels and blood pressure by giving your body a mini system reboot.”
And Winston Churchill famously said: “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
The subject of napping is one that often comes up – is it good for you or is it bad? How long should you nap for? And does it make up for lack of sleep?
We need sleep to function – both physically and mentally. Sleep regulates your mood, improves your memory but also maintains health, weight and energy levels.
But did you know that we are designed for two sleeps a day – the main one at night and a nap in the afternoon? If you find yourself getting that afternoon slump around 3pm then that’s your body telling you it’s time to nap.
However modern life and work has changed the way we sleep and we now sleep for just one chunk (called monophasic sleep). Generally this works for most of us, but for those who are sleep deprived it can be a hard slog to get through the afternoon.
This is where a planned daytime nap can help. It can improve alertness and memory and relieve stress and fatigue:
• Try and limit naps to around 20 minutes – any longer and they may leave you groggy and interfere with night time sleep. Use an alarm clock to wake you up.
• Keep a regular nap schedule – between 1pm and 3 pm.
• Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster so nap in a dark room or wear an eye mask.
• Stash a blanket nearby to put over you because your body temperature drops while you snooze.
It’s worth pointing out that napping only works for short term sleep deprivation. If you’ve had a late night or a bad night’ sleep from illness, children etc, then a nap will help. However, if you experience insomnia or long term poor sleep quality at night, napping might make these problems worse.
Realistically, and practically, it can be quite difficult for most of us to get 40 winks in an afternoon. So if you really struggle with sleepiness in an afternoon, a 10 minute quiet period may give you the boost you need.