A poor night’s sleep can significantly impact your productivity at work the following day. You may feel extra sleepy and struggle to concentrate on important tasks. This is often the point at which many people reach for a cup of coffee to boost their alertness. While this may work in the short-term, consuming many cups of coffee each day can reduce the quality of your sleep the following night. This becomes a perpetual cycle where people rely on caffeine to perform during the day after a poor night’s sleep caused by consuming too much caffeine. To avoid this cycle, power naps can be a useful strategy to reduce sleepiness and get you through the day without impacting your sleep later that night.
What is a power nap?
Power naps are very brief sleep periods, typically of 10 minutes in duration. While these naps are brief, research has shown that they can improve your alertness, mood and cognitive functioning. Best of all, unlike longer naps which can leave you feeling groggy, the benefits of power naps are felt immediately after you wake up.
Waking from deep sleep is thought to be responsible for the grogginess typically felt after a longer nap. During brief nap periods, people typically do not enter deep stages of sleep. Also, longer naps reduce your sleep drive which can impair your ability to fall asleep later that night. This is why it is so important that a power nap is brief.
When should I take a power nap?
If you want a boost in alertness (two hours of benefits), then a power nap of 10 minutes is optimal. Research has also shown that a power nap taken during what is known as the ‘post-lunch dip’ in alertness (typically between 1-3pm), often leads to the greatest improvements. So, taking a quick nap during your lunch break may be all that you need to survive till the end of your work shift.
How can I power nap at home or work?
Getting precisely 10 minutes of sleep can be very difficult. People may try to wake spontaneously after 10 or so minutes of sleep, but even seasoned nappers may struggle to wake themselves up at the correct time. You could also try setting an alarm to wake you up after a brief period of time, but this relies on you being able to accurately estimate how long it will take you to fall asleep. Therefore, you may oversleep and feel groggy when you wake up, or barely sleep at all during your nap period.
Instead, you could try THIM: a wearable device which promises to precisely detect the point that you fall asleep to ensure you achieve the optimal power nap. So the next time that you feel sleepy during the day, take a power nap instead of a caffeine hit during your lunch break and feel the benefits.
By Hannah Scott
Hannah is a PhD (Research) Candidate from Flinders University