Naps and Brain Benefits

475981169-smallNapping can have great benefits for your brain and body, but sometimes after waking up a from a nap, you feel groggy and almost as if you are more tired than you were before taking the nap. When you sleep for too long during a nap, you fall into a stage of sleep that is difficult to get out of.

Sleep experts suggest that taking a 10 to 20 minute power nap can give you a quick burst of alertness and mental clarity when you don’t have much time. This length limits you to the lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep, making it easier to get moving after waking up.

Studies show that sleeping for 30 minutes may cause sleep inertia, a hangover-like groggy feeling that can last for up to 30 minutes after waking up, before the nap’s restorative benefits become apparent.

60 minute long naps are best for improvement in remembering facts, faces and names. Hour long naps include “slow-wave” sleep which is the deepest type. The downside for sleeping this long is some grogginess upon waking up.

A full cycle of sleep is 90 minutes long, which includes the lighter and deeper stages, REM sleep and the dreaming stage. 90 minute long naps can lead to improved emotional and procedural memory and creativity. A nap of this length is typically easier to wake up from as well.

If you plan on taking shorter naps, it helps to sit up slightly as it will allow you to avoid falling into a deeper sleep. If you dream during these power naps, then it could be a sign that you are sleep deprived and need to get more hours of quality sleep each night.

Getting the Most Out of Sleep

For most, sleep is a standard block of time, usually beginning in late evening and ending at some point in the morning, typically consisting of 6-10 continuous hours. This is indeed the norm but for certain people this is far from reality. There is something called Polyphasic sleep, a term coined by psychologist J.S. Szymanski, which is defined as a pattern of sleep that consists of sleeping multiple times in a 24 hour period.

Many working people adopt biphasic sleep schedule without even thinking about it by simply taking a nap after work. This would be an example of the more common polyphasic sleep scheduling but cases get much more extreme from there.

The purpose of adopting such extreme sleep cycles is to maximize your efficiency by cutting down on the amount of time you spend asleep. The theory is that once you get into a polyphasic sleep cycle you will be able to sleep less and feel just as alert and energized as if you had a typical nights sleep. Adopting such an intense sleep schedule is no easy task though. For the first week and a half to two weeks you will go through a period of extreme mental and physical fatigue as your body starts to adjust to your new cycle. You must decide on which particular cycle you wish to adopt beforehand in order to plan your naps at specific points in the day so you can begin to train your body to be tired at those exact times.

For the Everyman Cycle you will need to take a three to three and a half hour nap accompanied by three twenty minute power naps at various times throughout the day. Using this cycle you will be sleeping around 17% of your time, as compared to the 33% you would be sleeping in the standard monophasic sleep pattern. For the Dymaxion Cycle, a cycle created by popular inventor, architect and theorist Buckminster Fuller, you would need to take four thirty minute naps every six hours leaving you with only two hours of total sleep per six hour increment. The most extreme cycle is the Uberman Cycle, from the German “Übermensch” meaning “Superman”. This cycle consists of six twenty minute naps every four hours. Those who have successfully adopted the more extreme cycles claim to fall immediately into REM sleep, the type of sleep vital to your health, when they take their naps.

There are several reasons people adopt polyphasic sleep cycles, both voluntary and involuntary. The U.S., Canadian, and Italian Air Forces as well as NASA have all done studies on polyphasic sleep in an effort to counter fatigue in extreme situations. In 1989 a long distance solo boat racer, Dr. Claudio Stampi, published his studies on polyphasic sleep claiming that it “…improve[d] prolonged sustained performance” in situations that require severe effort. People with irregular sleep-wake syndrome have no choice but to nap at various point throughout the day with no main sleep episode. This rare disorder can usually be traced to dementia or head trauma.

Regardless of what type of sleep schedule you choose to adopt, having a comfortable to place to sleep is a constant. Whether it be 36 naps a day or just one, you will need a mattress that will lull you to sleep quick so you can continue on with your busy schedule as soon as possible. Make sure you consider your options and be sure to choose the right one to achieve maximum efficiency when it comes to your napping.