When you reach a certain age, napping is frowned upon for it is seen to interfere with the important work of doing. However, psychologists at Harvard University say that a 60- to 90-minute siesta can charge up the brain’s batteries as much as eight hours tucked up in bed. This finding was arrived at after the visual learning abilities of a group of volunteers were tested.

The volunteers were divided into two groups. Both groups of volunteers watched a computer screen and were asked to recall the number of bars on they saw. Tests were carried out at 9 am and 7 pm, and again at 9 am the following day. One group of volunteers took a 60 – 90-minute nap before the 7 pm testing while the other group did not.

The researchers noted that the reaction times of volunteers in the group that were allowed to take a nap improved in the 7 pm testing cycle.

Benefits of Taking a Power Nap

Some of the many benefits sleep experts have found of power napping include:

  • Increase alertness
  • Boosts leaning, memory and overall creativity
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves perception, stamina, motor skills and accuracy.
  • Enhances your sex life
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Reduces the risk of heart attack
  • Brightens your mood
  • Improves nighttime sleep

How to Perfect the Power Nap

When asked what the secret to becoming a great painter was, Spanish Surrealist painter and printmaker, Salvador Dali said “slumber with a key.”

Dali’s “slumber with a key” method involved sitting in a chair with a heavy metal key pressed between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. A plate would be placed upside down on the floor underneath the hand with the key. When he fell asleep, the key would slip from between his thumb and forefinger and hit the plate, thereby awakening him. Dali believed this tiny nap “revivified” an artist’s whole “physical and physic being.”

Dali was a micro napper. Though his method was extreme he was right about one thing. One of the keys to power napping is to keep them short. Another key is to nap at the right time.

Sleep researcher and author of  Take a Nap! Dr. Sara Mednick, says that the ideal napping time is the point in the day when REM and slow-wave sleep (a.k.a. deep sleep) cross.

How long you should nap is best guided by what benefit you are seeking.

The Wall Street Journal provides the following guide on nap durations.

“For a quick boost of alertness, experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate for getting back to work in a pinch.

“For cognitive memory processing, however, a 60-minute nap may do more good, Dr. Mednick said. Including slow-wave sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.

“Finally, the 90-minute nap will likely involve a full cycle of sleep, which aids creativity and emotional and procedural memory, such as learning how to ride a bike. Waking up after REM sleep usually means a minimal amount of sleep inertia, Dr. Mednick said.”

How to Prepare for a Power Nap

To prepare for a power nap, find a quiet, cool, dark place where you can lie down. Calm the body by breathing in slowly and deeply. Concentrate on relaxing your muscles one group at a time.

If you are not used to daytime napping this will definitely be odd at first. Don’t give up. Also get rid of the mindset that you are being lazy.

As Winston Churchill said, “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”