rest and recharge // the perfect power nap
As the concept of ‘slow living’ gains popularity, so has the awareness of the benefits that napping can give you. With many of us living fast-paced lives that involve rushing to work and then rushing to get our work done on time, could slowing down and resting half way through the day actually aid our productivity?
We think so. Have a read of our guide to the perfect power nap, slip on your mahabis, and indulge yourself in some guilt free shut-eye.
Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Leonardo Da Vinci, Ludwig van Beethoven – all famed for their ideas and creativity, all also famously napped throughout the day and praised their mini sleeps for rejuvenation.
Salvador Dali took napping to the extreme, naming his micro naps of no more than a second as “slumber with a key”. The prolific artist would fall asleep in a chair, holding a heavy key between his thumb and forefinger, with a plate placed on the floor beneath it. As soon as he drifted off, the key would slip from his fingers and hit the plate, causing him to immediately awaken.
This process of waking before reaching Stage 2 sleep is now known as a hypnogogic nap, and is known to unlock creative thoughts.
So why is it that we often struggle to switch-off before going to sleep? Just as you're about to get some rest, suddenly the ideas that you were meant to be thinking about during the day pop up and before you know it you're awake until the early hours...
Cognitive scientists explain that the ideas that are simmering in your subconscious during the day have time to come to the forefront of your mind as you rest, as the brain is less distracted.
The best ways to tune in on these thoughts and avoid restlessness is to train up your sleeping pattern. Or failing that... a notepad on the nightstand can be a good outlet for those burning ideas.
The true trick to perfecting napping is to firstly understand the sleep cycle. There are five stages of sleep, all of which are important for different reasons, with one sleep cycle taking between 90 and 100 minutes to complete.
Stage 1 – This is the stage of transition into sleep, and usually takes between 2-5 minutes. During this time, your thoughts loosen up and creative ideas flourish. Hence, the popularity of creatives taking hypnogogic naps.
Stage 2 – Taking up 50% of your overall sleep time, this is the stage when your energy is strengthened, senses are sharpened and tasks that you have been working on are solidified.
Stages 3 & 4 – Known as Slow Wave Sleep, these two stages take up 30% of your sleep time. Your body ceases to produce Cortisol (known as the ‘stress hormone’) and extra growth hormones are released to restore your body, metabolise fats and repair tissues. Your mind is cleared, removing unused memories, strengthening what remains and making room for new information.
REM – The remaining 20% of your sleep time is used to boost creativity and to move recently made memories into long term storage.
Having the knowledge of what happens during each stage of sleep can aid you in determining how long you should nap for.
If you are seeking a boost in creativity, you should take a 90 minute nap to complete a full sleep cycle and enter REM sleep. REM peaks early in the day, so you should aim to complete your nap prior to 2pm. You should also nap for a full sleep cycle if you are studying for a test.
Stage 2 sleep will increase your alertness, Stages 3 & 4 will solidify what you have learnt, and REM will move the information into permanent storage.
Try to break away from snoozing your alarm in the morning, and transferring that extra sleep time to later in the day. A twenty minute nap is all that it takes to boost stamina – taking a short nap later in the day will give you an extra energy boost, rather than snoozing in the morning, which won’t allow you to get past Stage 1 sleep.
The ultimate nap to completely refresh yourself is best taken between 1pm and 3pm in the afternoon – the perfect interval between your night time sleep and the optimum length for balancing all five stages of the sleep cycle.
And what for the benefits of napping? In order for young children to grow and develop both mentally and physically, they need extra sleep than adults, with new born babies requiring up to 20 hours of sleep a day. As we grow older, we no longer need an excessive amount of sleep, but an extra nap during the afternoon can help to increase alertness, improve your memory, improve your health, heighten your senses and get your creative juices flowing!
Embracing a biphasic pattern of sleep, whereby you rest for a long stretch at night with a short nap during the day, has been embraced by numerous cultures over the generations, from the ancient Romans to the Spanish siesta.
Hectic modern life is blamed for the decline in people taking siestas, but perhaps we should take a step back and embrace the Roman way of life.