Have you ever driven in your car and not remembered part of the trip or felt like you suddenly “snapped” into reality? Or sat through another non-exhilarating meeting at work and were asked a question and responded with a blank stare?
If you’re among the 33% of Americans who are sleep deprived, you could have been microsleeping. This happens when you fall asleep, often with your eyes open, for a fraction of a second to up to 30 seconds, and have no control or awareness of it.
Let’s face it — we’re all pretty tired. After all, we live in one of the few countries that doesn’t recognize the importance of a good siesta. When I traveled to the South of France for the first time with my husband to meet his family, I didn’t know what to do with myself after lunch. Followed by a five-course meal that seemed to last forever was a cup of George Clooney from the Nespresso machine and then a 2-3 hour nap. If you think it’s weird to drink coffee beans before a nap, you’ll understand why it’s not after you read the tips below.
I am a pretty big believer in naps. Research shows that napping for just 6 minutes can restore you and improve your performance and learning. Napping can also reduce your risk of heart attack. In fact, in one study of 23,681 Greek men over a six-year period, the participants who napped three times per week had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
A long nap in the South of France is probably not realistic for most of us — and that’s where the powernap comes in. A powernap is a short daytime nap of about 20 minutes. Powernaps have changed my life and they can for you, too.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Don’t feel guilty
Taking a nap is not being lazy — it’s actually being more productive. You’ll get a lot more done when you have the mental stamina after you wake up. Harvard research shows that power naps significantly improve performance on repetitive, perceptual, and cognitive tasks. Memory can be boosted up to 20 percent as well.
Find the time
Right after eating lunch is best, when our mid-day drowsiness sets in. After a meal, our bodies go into “rest and digest” mode, since energy is needed to process the food. That combined with Circadian rhythm — the body’s natural clock that regulates sleep cycles — causes us to want to grab a Snuggie and hibernate under a desk. Your body has been telling you for your entire life to take a nap in the afternoon, and you haven’t been listening!
Find the place
Is it in your office with the lights off, blinds shut, and door locked? Is it in your parked car? Find a place where you won’t be interrupted and also won’t put your job in jeopardy. Your boss might forgive you for the blank stare at the team meeting, but it might not leave the best impression if he sees you setting up sleep camp in your office.
Set an alarm
Silence your phone to cut distractions, but set an alarm for up to 30 minutes so you don’t have to worry about oversleeping.
Can’t wake up? Take a caffeine nap
Do you think drinking coffee before taking a nap is counterintuitive? Well, it actually takes approximately 20 minutes for your body to respond to caffeine, which also happens to be the perfect length of time for a powernap. So, if you have a hard time waking up from a nap, drink a cup of coffee beforehand.
Close your eyes and try to tune everything out. Or focus on one thing if you have to, like the sound of your breathing. I highly recommend taking a meditation class if you have never been to one. Learning to meditate did wonders for my sleep habits. I stopped counting sheep and sent them packing.
Make it a habit
You might not fall asleep the first time, so try again tomorrow. It might take your body and mind some time to get used to it.
Good luck and happy power-napping!