The Power of a Power Nap

It’s 2:00 pm on a Wednesday. You’re in the office working hard on your latest project when you notice it is becoming increasingly difficult to focus; physically and mentally. You try to shake it off but as the minutes tick by your energy levels are marching steadily below peak productivity levels. You walk around the office, stretch, and even hit the coffee pot for 10th time today but the second you resume your work your body picks up where it left off. A string of yawns later and all of the evidence becomes clear. You’ve hit the afternoon wall and there’s nothing you can do about it.

At least, that’s what you think. Studies have shown for many of us, our natural circadian rhythms, or biological clocks, come with a programmed need for an afternoon recharge commonly referred to as a “power nap”. Napping has long been seen as the natural habitat for toddlers and retirees but the more we learn about sleep and how it is affected by our internal clocks, the more we recognize how much our bodies need that late afternoon recharge.

So with that in mind, here are a few tips to achieve the optimal results from an afternoon power nap.

  • Timing Is Everything – The best time for a power nap is between 2:00 and 4:00 pm; usually an hour after lunch.
  • Do Not Disturb – Get the most out of your down time. Close your office door, put up a “do not disturb” sign, and turn off all phones. If you don’t have an office, take your break in your car.
  • Don’t Forget To Set Your Alarm – A common mistake power nappers make is assuming they’ll automatically wake up in 15 minutes. Setting an alarm will guarantee you don’t sleep the rest of the day away.
  • Don’t Force It – If you’re not sleepy, don’t try to make yourself sleep. Listen to your body. It’ll tell you if you need a nap or not.
  • Atmosphere Is Everything – If possible, turn down/off the lights, put on some soft music and get as comfortable as you can. Simply leaning back in your office chair can be all you need for an effective power nap.
  • Don’t Overdo It – Fifteen minutes should be sufficient to power back up. Thirty minutes should be the maximum (if your employer allows that much time for an afternoon break). Anything over that and you’re entering into a different category of circadian rhythm issues.
  • Do Not Feel Guilty – The need for a nap isn’t a sign of laziness. It is a very basic technique to restore mental and physical acuity.

It is amazing what a few minutes of rest can do to improve the day. Studies have shown a simple 15 minute power nap improves productivity, rejuvenates the body, and is a benefit to overall health. So before you hit the energy drinks or the coffee pot, take a few minutes out of your day to listen to your internal clock. You’ll find out your body is very good at letting you know what it needs.