The power of nap

Did you know power napping can lead to the biggest brain benefits?
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Image Courtesy: wikipedia.org
Image Courtesy: wikipedia.org

It’s December – the season of back-to-back parties, wrapping up work and annual targets, and preparing for New Year parties. Amidst this brouhaha, your energy levels can bog you down. Plus, the hangovers and late nights of the day before (even weeks for some!).

I realised this while shopping at Phoenix Marketcity. This party-shop-hop season can be draining. With three big shopping bags and a never-ending to-do list, I kept browsing through shop windows from floor to floor. When I came across a coffee shop, I finally got to pause and drop my bags. It was such a struggle to keep my eyes open! So, I asked for a cappuccino.

Before the waiter could even bring my cuppa, my eyes had given up. My brain had shut down. My face read zzZZ. And the coffee was not going to work on me anymore. After 15 minutes or so, the waiter came and said, “Madam, your cappuccino is here… Madam!”. That shook me because I didn’t even realise I had fallen asleep. The 20-minute nap felt like an hour or so. I felt fresh like a daisy and I have to admit, a bit embarrassed too, to have a waiter wake me up.

Some magazines were stacked near my table. I picked one. An infographic made for the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. It was almost miraculous to see the graphic was about ‘napping’ and how it leads to the biggest brain benefits.

Researchers say napping has many benefits. But whether you can avail them or not depends on the time and type of nap. Ever noticed how some naps leave you groggy while some make you feel like a ‘system reboot’?

That is why napping is a bit of both – art and science. Simply knowing a nap is coming can lower your blood pressure. But knowing how to take the right nap can help your entire system. Here’s how:

Quick-fix Mondays
If it’s a Monday morning you’re combating, a quick 15-20 minute nap at your desk can work wonders. A short nap is known to increase alertness and is adequate to jumpstart your work. This nap will only take you through the lighter stages of REM (random eye moment) making it easier for you to bounce back to reality after waking up. Power naps are known to increase mental efficiency and productivity.
The plus side: increases mental efficiency and alertness

Midway out
A 30-minute nap can be great during the day. Studies show that it leaves you feeling groggy for 20-30 minutes after waking up. But frankly, for caffeine consumers, it would take at least 5-10 minutes to fall asleep. So a 30-minute nap makes sense because it’s only 20 minutes of real sleep. However, the sharpness that a 20-minute nap gives you will last longer. In Greece, a study found that napping at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more lowers risk of death from heart ailments by 37%.
The plus side: lowers heart-related risks

From sulky to (w)sup!
Sometimes you’re more than just tired. When that cranky feeling from late nights has led to chronic sleep deprivation, try taking the 60-minute power nap. This one is sure to enhance your cognitive memory processing. It induces slow-wave sleep which helps in remembering facts, names and places. If you feel low on waking up, you can always rely on a cup of green tea to refresh you.
The plus side: improves memory

Full-circle siesta
On lazy weekend afternoons , go full circle with a 90-minute power nap. Sure to cure the stress and sleep deprivation, a 90-minute nap will take you through deeper stages of REM – the dream state. This means improved emotional and procedural memory. It increases right brain activity which enhances creativity. Activities like playing guitar or riding a bike become easier and more enjoyable. This nap increases brain’s learning capacity and boosts intelligence.
The plus side: enhances creativity, no dullness upon waking up

So the next time you feel dull at work, listen to your instincts. Your body only needs one nap to restart.

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Sleep Trivia

  • Taking a nap anywhere between 1 pm and 4 pm has the highest effect on brain’s learning capacity
  • Naps taken later than 4 pm can disturb your sleeping cycle
  • As we age, there’s a tendency to be satisfied with shorter naps
  • MetroNaps, a New York-based company has installed specially designed ‘sleeping pods’ for Google, Huffington Post and other such companies
  • Sleeping in an upright position is known to be more beneficial for the 20-minute naps
  • NASA pilots showed 34% increase in performance and 54% increase in alertness after a 26-minute nap in flight (while a co-pilot was on duty!)

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