If you’re a morning, lunchtime and fellow 4pm coffee-guzzler, a mid-afternoon nap could be the answer to weaning yourself off caffeine forever. Napping is often associated with pre-schoolers or adults over the age of 65, neither of which is a category I fit into. Regardless, no matter what your age, you too can reap the benefit of some daytime shut-eye. Think of the famous Spanish siesta, the afternoon nap that has historically become tradition amongst many European cities (there’s even guidelines about keeping your children indoors during Siesta time!) – they realised centuries ago the power of an afternoon snooze.
While sufficient sleep is generally defined as between seven and nine hours, a recent National Sleep Foundation survey found the average adult in the UK is getting just six hours and 49 minutes per night.
Due to longer commutes and lengthy work hours, more workplaces are embracing naps and even creating designated rooms for them. Why? According to researchers, when done properly, naps can be extremely beneficial in retaining memory, upping productivity and improving performance. It’s no surprise then that some of the biggest global companies such as Google, Uber and The Huffington Post are all encouraging staff to take a daily nap for a better-rested workforce by installing sleep pods in their offices.
The London high street has also followed suit, with the opening of nap pod shop Pop & Rest in Monument last year and, due to high demand, another in Old Street. For £18 an hour, overworked businessmen and women and exhausted new parents are all using it as an opportunity to rest and recharge – no wonder it’s such a success story.
It’s not called beauty sleep for nothing. When we’re sleep deprived not only are we less alert, less productive and less happy, we’re also less attractive too. Sleep deprivation alone causes red eyes, dark under-eye circles, fine lines and wrinkles. However, there’s an art to having the perfect nap. Do it the wrong way and you reap no benefits: groggy mood, dull skin and feeling disorientated will all take effect. It’s essential you know how and when to make the most of your precious me-time.
Your cortisol is going to experience a natural ‘dip’ approximately five to seven hours after you wake – so, for example, if you wake at 6am, you should grab your nap between 11am-1pm. Though this seems more like brunch than post-lunch, this will be the easiest time for you to nod off. Saying that, a full stomach always seems to bring on a wave of tiredness…
Here’s your powernap timeline:
The 20-Minute Booster
Set your nap time to 20 minutes. This amount of sleep will keep your body calm and slows down your heart rate while also allowing your mind to reorient itself. Psychologically however, when your alarm is set for this short amount of time, you might feel nervous or start worrying about whether you are going to actually fall asleep at all. Just use the time to relax and close your eyes, which alone will create a sense of calm and encourage rest, if not sleep.
The 30-Minute Catnap
A short nap of up to 30 minutes is considered an optimal amount. It is said to enhance alertness, concentration, and sharpen our motor skills. According to NASA, for peak performance and alertness the best naptime is actually 26 minutes. But be warned: once you cross into REM sleep, which is the 30-minute mark, you will probably wake up feeling very tired and not refreshed whatsoever. This may also affect the quality of your night’s sleep too.
The 60-Minute Switch-Off
During this time, a nap of between 40 and 60 minutes has been shown to provide a boost to brainpower, improving memory and stimulating creativity.
The downside of this type of nap is that, because you enter a state of deep sleep, you’re likely to experience that unpleasant groggy feeling when you first wake up and will likely need an immediate caffeine and chocolate fix.
The 90-Minute Dream
If your nap takes you into REM sleep, while not being ideal for feeling refreshed, it could trigger your creative juices to flow – which, in turn, can spill over into a major productivity boost. During this time, you’re likely to complete a full sleep cycle, which means that you are unlikely to get sleep inertia.