How to take power naps for productivity

How Power Naps Affect Productivity (And How To Regularly Take Naps)

Some months ago, I had several chores on my hands. Some, one-off. Others, persistent.

I was taking online courses, in talks with clients, and writing my blogs. All alongside my offline chores which include a very small business and some other domestic chores. 

Fun? Lol, not on my to-do list.

Like anyone trying to get more done within 24 hours, I, by instinct, started working very late into the nights. I took little or no time to relax during the day, but I worked as hard as I possibly could have.

After some days, stress set in (as it normally should).

I had shoulder and lower back pain. And because I took very little time to sleep (sometimes less than 4 hours), I felt foggy all the time.

This continued for about 10 to 12 days. And then one afternoon, I fell asleep at my desk (and damn was it a good sleep).

Though unintentional, that was my power nap. I didn’t exactly time how long it was. But based on my calculations, it lasted somewhere between 30 to 45 minutes.

If you’re in a related situation, you might be tempted to cut down on your sleeping hours and try to “get more done”. But, really, it doesn’t always work out.

A review by the School of Psychology, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia published on Pubmed concludes that naps that last more than 30 minutes can “produce improved cognitive performance for a longer period”.


What Is a Power Nap?

Power nap, a term coined by Cornell University social psychologist James Maas, is a short sleep from which you awaken before you fall into a deep sleep. And its main objective is to quickly re-energize you. Like starting a new day.

how to take power naps productivity

The main characteristic of a power nap is that it gives you the benefits of sleep without taking as much time. However, these benefits will not last as much as they would if you slept.

If you’ve accumulated sleep deficit for some time, you can pay those debts by taking a power nap. Think of power naps like sleep supplements. When you’re deficient, you take supplements to quickly restore you back to the normal levels.

Some Benefits of Taking Power Naps

  1. Power naps can restore alertness, performance, and learning abilities
  2. They can help fight fatigue and improve vigour, and cognitive performance
  3. They can reverse information overload
  4. They may reverse the effects of sleep deprivation
  5. They may reverse hormonal imbalances caused by a night of poor sleep
  6. They can help with jetlag

Science’ Take on Napping (And Its Effects on Productivity).

So far, all I’ve said on taking naps are more opinionative in nature. But are there studies and researches to back my claims on the benefits of taking power naps listed above? Of course.

In her book, Take A Nap! Change Your Life, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Sara C. Mednick, PhD, says you can get incredible benefits from 20 to 30 minutes napping. From treating sleep deprivation to getting energy boosts and staying alert.

A cohort study affiliated with the University of Düsseldorf finds that daytime naps can help with declarative memory performance.

Two experiments were carried out for this single research. The first assessed the difference in free recall capabilities when the subjects took daytime naps and when they didn’t. It was discovered that subjects recalled better when they took naps. 

The second experiment was designed to assess the effect of the time-difference in naps. Whether longer naps have more benefits than shorter naps.

The subjects were divided into 3 groups. One group stayed awake, the second group was allowed to nap for 6 minutes on average while the 3rd group was allowed a longer sleep-time.

The 2 groups allowed to nap outperformed the control group. But the group with the longer nap-time performed best. You can read the full study here.

Another evidence is the 40-minute nap recommendation by NASA Ames Fatigue Countermeasures Group to improve the performance and alertness of the flight crew. 

This recommendation was made after studying 2 groups of flight crews. Members of the first (rest) group were asked to take 40-minute naps consecutively in-flight while cruising over the sea while the control group was asked to maintain the normal schedule.

At the end of the study period, it was concluded that the control (no-rest) group demonstrated reduced performance on night flights compared to days, at the end of flights compared to the beginning, and after multiple flight legs, while the rest group maintained consistent performance.

Now you see how naps can actually help you do more? Another thing I noticed during the period I narrated above is that I was easily bored and more susceptible to distraction.

Sometimes, I’d sit down in front of the laptop to write, and I’d find myself wandering across social networks. But since I’ve started napping, I’ve been able to focus more on tasks at hand, think clearly, and even articulate words more efficiently.

More so, I no longer feel so stressed as I used to be after a seemingly long day.

How to Regularly Take Power Naps

Take the following steps to have controlled and regular daytime naps.

  1. Decide a fixed time for your naps (early afternoon, between 1 and 3 pm)
  2. Decide your daytime nap spot (helps condition you to the same feeling your brain has around your bed)
  3. Set your alarm to anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes from your start time
  4. Include your nap time in your to-do list lest you forget
  5. Consider taking a caffeinated drink right before your nap. Helps if you feel groggy after your naps
how to take naps productivity

How Long Should a Power Nap Last?

Naps are supposed to be nothing but a short not-so-deep sleep during the day. If you spend too long napping and you fall into a deep sleep, you’ll get groggy when you wake. And you might be overcome by lassitude for the rest of the day.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that your nap should last between 20 to 30 minutes. However, you can set your alarm to anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes from your nap start-time, depending on how fast you fall asleep.

Take-Home Message

If you haven’t been napping before now, you might want to consider working naps into your daily to-do list.

There are benefits to it. Especially if you’re an all-nighter. But when you start napping, be sure not to overdo it. You’ll probably become fatigued.

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