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POWER NAPS – WHY YOU NEED THEM

There are few things as important to the body as SLEEP. Or more technically, maintaining a healthy Circadian Rhythm and how to respect nature’s laws when it comes to your sleep and wake cycles.

It’s one of the 6 Foundation Principles I use to help clients achieve optimal health, fitness and performance:

1.    Sleep
2.    Water
3.    Food
4.    Movement
5.    Breathing
6.    Thinking

And it’s incredibly calming and nourishing to the body. I consider sleep to be certainly up there with vegetables when it comes to achieving optimal health and fitness.

But what are your options when your nighttime sleeping has been less than ideal?

Let me paint a scenario that may sound familiar to you:

It’s 3 in the afternoon and you can barely keep your eyes open. Your mind feels foggy, and all you want to do is curl up under your desk for 20 minutes and take a nap.

But cutting-edge, productive people couldn’t possibly take naps, do they?

Actually, they do.

It turns out that a nap is exactly what you need in the afternoons when drowsiness takes over your body and mind. From N.B.A. players to Google employees, high-achieving people are turning to naps to recharge.

Why might you ask?

Sleep experts have discovered that naps can improve stamina and motor skills and enhance creativity.

In fact, Dr. Sara C. Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life and Assistant Professor of Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside says,

“…without a midday rest, we are not able to perform at optimal levels throughout the day. In fact, our performance falls apart. Napping maintains and even boosts our skills.”

When you are running on empty and slugging through your projects, wouldn’t it be great to have a fresh burst of creativity and energy? That is what a power nap can provide.

There are measurable physical benefits from napping as well:

⦁    The risk of dying from a heart-related complication decreases in nap-takers (37% for those who nap at least 3 times per week!); and

⦁    And the release of growth hormone from napping (and from getting solid nighttime sleep) aids in weight loss.

How to Power Nap

For me personally, I don’t take naps at all (I actually haven’t taken a nap in my life to date). I just feel I don’t need or want one but since researching this topic and found the benefits outweigh the cons I could be napping everyday if the time permits. I’m a realistic guy and I realise napping isn’t always an option for 9 to 5ers, busy Mothers at home with the kids should certainly take some extra zzz’s if time permits.

So when the opportunity comes around grab it with both hands!

15-30 minutes seems to be the sweet spot for the best power nap.

Berkley biology students report that naps must be short in order to most effective. When naps exceed 45 minutes, the benefits begin to disappear.

Just a 30 minute snooze can improve cognitive faculties by about 40%, according to NASA researchers. Many people naturally wake up after 15-30 minutes of napping. But if you tend to be a longer nap-taker, set an alarm to awaken you so you do not over sleep.

Keeping your nap at 30 minutes or less will also prevent you from being overly groggy upon waking.

Here are some tips to have a successful power nap:

⦁    Try to be consistent.  The best time for napping is between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, or approximately 8 hours after waking in the morning.

⦁    Darken the room.  Darkness causes your body to produce melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.  If you can’t darken the room, put on a sleep mask or even drape a jacket over your face.

⦁    Stay warm.  Your body temperature drops while you sleep.  Keep a blanket or jacket nearby to help stay warm.

⦁    Control noise.  If noise bothers you while you sleep, turn on a fan or white noise machine.  Better yet, use and iPhone App like Mind Tuner. It’s great for napping, waking up, enhancing creativity and increasing focus!

Feeling drowsy yet?

Patrick David
Director/ Head Fitness Coach