Most people think power napping is only for kindergarten kids. But no, napping is for everyone. Children, youths, and adults require power naps. It is healthy and good for the brain. Power napping is more like rebooting the brain as we do to our computers. In general, a power nap will restore your wakefulness and positively enhance your performance.
What is a power nap?
A power nap is a short rest that you take to break your work routine. It is intended to re-energize you and make you fresh for more productivity. Power naps come before the deep sleep and can be positively used to supplement regular sleep. This is why most companies are adopting naps as part of their ethos.
Napping also boosts your intelligence and creativity. It is also said to be able to enhance a prolonged healthy life. Many people have been critical about naps in the past, but it has been proved that naps are good and healthy. Our bodies require naps to treat sleep deprivation. Evolution, growth processes, and brain health may explain this.
What are the sleep cycles?
Most of us go to bed only when tired. But have you taken your time to know what happens when you lay on your bed? Well, that is where the sleep cycle sets in. Once you sleep, you experience a 90-120 minute sleep cycle. The sleep cycle is broken down into five distinct stages. As you sleep, the sleeping pattern keeps shifting. So, sleep is just complicated. It is not what most people think it to be, falling asleep and waking up after some time.
In the first four stages of sleep, there are non-rapid eye movements described as the NREM stage. Here, the eyes rarely move and you shift from stage 1 to stage 4 within a short time. All body muscles, however, retain their body functional ability.
This is how the five stages of a 90-minute sleep cycle are distributed.
In this stage of sleep, your body muscle activity slows down, and you turn around in bed. It takes a few seconds to doze off. It lasts only up to 7 minutes and you can be easily woken up by the least distraction.
Sleep gains momentum. The breathing slows down. Your heartbeat slows too. At this stage, you are a bit sensitive to surrounding stimuli, but heavy sleep starts setting in. There is a sudden increase in production of brain waves. Your body temperature decreases due to less activity in the body organs.
A short sleep stage. It takes only 5 percent of the sleep cycle time. Heavy sleep sets in. You are now less sensitive to any external stimuli. At this stage, your brain starts developing slow delta waves.
This is the last step in the non-rapid eye movement sleep. It takes around 12 to 15 percent of the 90-minute sleep duration. The delta waves produced by the brain in stage three increase and there is rhythmic breathing. At this juncture, you are in a deep sleep. Your body can hardly respond to minor disruptions in the background. In this stage and the previous one, namely stage 3, is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.
This is the last stage in the 90 minutes sleep cycle. Here, you experience Rapid Eye Movements (REM). This is why it is popularly referred to as REM sleep. The eyes move rapidly, up, down, and sideways. It takes the second largest duration of sleep in the cycle, after stage 2. The blood pressure increases with fast and shallow breathing.
In this final stage, the brain delta waves become more rapid leading to dreaming. It has been said that rapid eye movements are the causes of visual images during dreams. This is however hypothetic and has not been scientifically proved.
How to Power Nap?
A power nap includes the first two stages of the sleep cycle. Stage one approximately takes 10 minutes with the second one taking about 20. For you to have a perfect power nap, there are some tips to adopt to make it perfect.
- Find a good spot
You need to find a place appropriate for taking a power nap. It could be on the table, chair, or even in the field under a tree! What is important here is that you must have no disturbance. It is appropriate if the place is dark and cool.
- Keep the 30-minute maximum duration
You don’t want to exceed stage two in your nap. As such, you are supposed to set your alarm to time your sleep. Once it goes, do not snooze, just obey, and go back to work or studying!
- Keep away all distracters
Anything that will interrupt your sleep must be shelved. Get rid of your phone. If you are in an office, you can use a “do not disturb” tag on the door. That is perfect for your power nap.
- Take a nap in the afternoon
Afternoon siestas make the perfect nap. The lunch you consume could have affected your nutritional balance especially if it had a lot of starch. It perfectly fits the purpose!
Taking naps is healthy and beneficial to your health. The brain requires short naps to revitalize. This is why you need to know how to take the most fruitful nap and when to do it. Stay in the know!
By Dr Sajed Al-Abdali Al Mutairi
Occupational Medicine Consultant