Many powerful movers and shakers have sworn by the afternoon nap: Albert Einstein, JFK, Napoleon, and, of course, cats. No small wonder: naps have been shown to hold great restorative power for those tasked by long work hours. World leaders to CEO’s to shift workers to preschool teachers embrace the nap, for the betterment of mankind!
And yet, there is a stigma of laziness or lack of ambition associated with napping. “Naps are for kids and old people,” we might chide ourselves. Instead we opt for another coffee, energy drink, sugar snack to keep the coal fires of industry burning in our guts.
For those searching for a low cost, healthy alternative—we’re walking you through the benefits, hazards, and helpful tips to help you get the most power out of your midday siesta. Unleash the power of the nap.
Like I Need More Reasons to Nap?
According to the Mayo Clinic, naps have been clinically proven to:
- Aid relaxation
- Combat the effects of short-term sleep loss
- Increase alertness and reaction time
- Improve mood and memory
- and lower blood pressure.
A nap can provide a much-needed mini-vacation. It’s a mental and physical restorative that’s caffeine-free, sugar-free, nonfat, and literally free. They're good at any age group (not just toddlers and elders) and come with no crash.
When shift workers can anticipate a loss of sleep, a nap can make the difference between life and death. Shift workers such as nurses, security guards, public transportation workers, and many more working professionals with long hours or odd schedules may need naps for safety’s sake!
Proof positive: my dad, a crane operator, frequently worked night shifts. To make sure he didn’t operate a crane while drowsy, he bought a van with a pull-out couch in the back so he could catch some zzz’s. A quick bit of shut-eye often allowed him to avoid dropping hundred-ton shipping crates due to lack of sleep.
Not just elders and infants, but literally all ages can benefit from naps. From the high school students with a packed schedule to the middle-aged parents juggling the high school student’s schedule (plus their own and several others).
Women, especially, it seems benefit greatly from (and are demanding) more naps:
So what’s the deal? Why doesn’t everyone nap more already? Glad you asked...
Naps themselves can sometimes be the culprit of sleeplessness. Dr. Shelby Freedman Harris, PsyD, frequently warns her patients who are experiencing insomnia to avoid taking daytime naps, as they are likely undermining her patients’ ability to form a regular nightly sleep schedule. Dr. Ralph Downey III, PhD, director of the Loma Linda University Medical Center’s Sleep Disorders Center cautions that “even a power nap reduces nighttime sleep drive [...] the nap becomes another episode of fragmented sleep.” Make sure you’re getting those prime cut eight hours of sleep a night, first and foremost.
Naps can be useful when you’re coming off a rough night’s sleep because your neighbor’s ska band decided they really wanted to nail their cover of Save Ferris’s cover of “Come On Eileen” (they swear it’ll never happen again)underlying issues could be affecting your sleep patterns, such as sleep apnea, a medication side-affect or interaction, or a dietary issue. Ask your doctor first if you feel tired all the time and don’t know why.
That said, if your nightly sleep schedule is solid and your doctor has cleared your bill of health yet you’re still fighting the midday drag, here’s how to power up by powering down.
The Power Nap
The “power nap” is between five and thirty minutes. A minimum five minutes of actual sleep can still have restorative effects, but more than thirty will lead to grogginess.
- Set an alarm.
- Between 5 - 30 minutes.
- Switch your phone to airplane mode.
- Avoid pings and prods from the outside world, if at all possible. Enjoy a brief moment of zen as you do so.
- Nap after lunch.
- Experts recommend not sleeping past 3 in the afternoon to avoid feeling sleepless at night.
- If you work the night shift, a nap either before work, or before your drive home is recommended.
- Sleep environment is key.
- Make the immediate environment dark, cool, and quiet as possible.
- Where you nap should be as close to the place you regularly sleep as possible, if not your actual bed. Hello, work-from-homers!
- Ideally, sleep on a cool and breathable set of linens—during nap time and nighttime. Available, as always, from Primary Goods. Why not invest in two sets: one for the homestead and one for the office?
Or the van, if you’re my dad. (Hi dad!)
Belsky, Gail. “The Pros and Cons of Napping.” Health.com, Meredith Health Group, 8 Apr. 2015, www.health.com/condition/sleep/the-pros-and-cons-of-napping?slide=8057bdf2-49e8-4631-93f7-534bd02693f5#8057bdf2-49e8-4631-93f7-534bd02693f5.
Harris, Shelby Freedman. “The Pros And Cons Of A Quick Nap.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 23 Aug. 2013, www.huffpost.com/entry/daytime-napping_n_3757655.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “How to Get a Great Nap.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 Nov. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319.
“Napping Benefits & Tips.” Sleep Foundation, 2 June 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping.
Sound Sleep Health. “The Pros and Cons of Napping.” Sound Sleep Health, Sound Sleep Health, 4 Jan. 2017, www.soundsleephealth.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-napping/.