The Power Behind a Power Nap

power nap is a short sleep which terminates before the occurrence of deep sleep or slow-wave sleep (SWS), intended to quickly revitalize the subject.

(Coined by me, Dr. James Maas).

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Taking a 15-20 minute power nap in the afternoon can help rid of some of your sleep debt. Sleep deprivation can be especially destructive to athletes. There’s no escaping the debilitating effects of insidious sleepiness, no matter how motivated, responsible, or strong you are. Even in risky or potentially dangerous situations, nothing can override the powerful and inevitable results of extensive or cumulative sleep loss.

Nearly 70 percent of the population is at least modestly sleep deprived. The deleterious consequences include a higher risk of hypertension (heart attacks and strokes), type II diabetes, depression, cancer, skin problems and obesity.

If you’re stressed out, and not getting your required amount of sleep, napping is a good short-term solution.

We need to treat sleep as a necessity, not a luxury. If you’re stressed out, burning the candle at both ends and not getting your required amount of sleep, napping is a good short-term solution.

According to a Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends 2009 survey, one in three adults take a nap on a typical day. With the exception of those who suffer from nocturnal insomnia, a 10- to 20-minute power nap in the natural midday circadian dip in alertness (usually around 8 hours after you wake up) is an easy, healthful way to quickly boost alertness, energy, productivity and mood.

A British study found that simply anticipating a nap is enough to lower blood pressure. And research in Greece as Dr. Naska points out, shows that napping lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. Other studies have yielded similar findings for obesity and diabetes. Napping benefits the mind, too; naps enhance creative thinking, boost cognitive processing, improve memory recall and generally clear out the cobwebs.

The corporate world’s answer to the mid-afternoon energy dip has traditionally been a coffee or cola break. However, these caffeinated quick fixes often interfere with the nighttime sleep cycle. A 20-minute power nap is a far better remedy. Naps must be kept to 20 minutes or one enters deeper stages of sleep, will wake up groggy and will struggle to fall asleep at their regular bedtime.

There is some evidence that 90-minute naps might prove helpful in keeping you calm. Matt Walker of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley showed test subjects faces that expressed anger, fear and happiness. They showed the faces at noon and at 6 pm. They found that subjects were significantly more upset by angry and fearful faces later in the day, unless they had a 90-minute lunchtime nap in which they experienced REM sleep.

So, find yourself a cool, dark, quiet place, lie down and take 10.

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