I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I have a spare hour at work, I lie down on my couch and have a wee nap. One of the benefits of being self employed I guess. I know I could never do it “on the clock” when I was being paid a salary. But why is napping so frowned upon, when the science is overwhelmingly clear: napping is like high octane fuel for your brain.
Wallace (also a big fan of naps) and I talked about the benefits of napping on Radio Live this week. (Click here for a link to the audio of the Radio Live interview)
Research has shown napping improves performance, almost regardless of what task you are engaged in. It shows particularly high improvements in memory, concentration and boosts memory performance. It also seems to clear short term memory, almost like resetting your computer, and leaves your brain more laert and ready to engage is taxing tasks. (For more on the research click here and here).
Part of the trick to it, to mastering the “power nap” is how long you sleep for:
“The length of your nap and the type of sleep you get help determine the brain-boosting benefits. The 20-minute power nap — sometimes called the stage 2 nap — is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing the piano.
What happens if you nap for more than 20 minutes? Research shows longer naps help boost memory and enhance creativity. Slow-wave sleep — napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes — is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions. Getting rapid eye movement or REM sleep, usually 60 to 90 minutes of napping, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems.”(Click here for the whole article)
I like to combine my napping with meditation, for what I call the “no pressure” nap. I make the decision to lie down, set an alarm, and if I sleep all good, if not I just try and meditate and relax. The worst thing to do with napping is to turn it into another have to.
So for the un-inititated here are some tips from the above article:
- Be consistent. Keep a regular nap schedule. Prime napping time falls in the middle of the day, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
- Make it quick. Set your cell phone alarm for 30 minutes or less if you don’t want to wake up groggy.
- Go dark. Nap in a dark room or wear an eye mask. Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster.
- Stay warm. Stash a blanket nearby to put over you because your body temperature drops while you snooze.
You might also want to watch this little clip about the benefits of napping (or just email it to your boss!):