Approximately one-third of Americans do not get enough sleep on a daily basis, according to a U.S. governmental report. These same studies showed that being sleep deprived increases a person’s risk for cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, stroke and other diseases. Missing one hour of sleep takes a big hit on being mentally sharp and having a high energy level, increases an individual’s moodiness, and decreases the ability to cope with stress.
So how can a person become more mentally alert, make better decisions, elevate their mood, improve their stamina and decreases eye strain, just to name a few? Many individuals turn to napping, as recommended by many doctors and sleep experts. Napping is no longer just for pre-kindergarten students! Just follow these steps and learn how to take a nap.
Best Place to Nap
The best place for an individual to take a nap depends where you are at any given point in the day and what will work best for you. If you are at home, you can lie down on a couch. If you are in your car, exit the highway and park your car in safe neighborhood, recline your seat and take a nap. If you are in your office, find a place where you won’t get noticed napping. Research has found that it’s easier for a person to take short naps while being upright.
When is Best Time to Nap?
As a general rule, the best time to nap is about the halfway point between the time you wake up in the morning and the time you fall asleep at night. The ideal nap time is the time of the day when the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) crosses, according to Dr. Mednick, Assistant Professor at UC Riverside and author of “Take a Nap! Change Your Life.” REM is the sleep state when a person will have the most propensity to dream. SWS is a person’s deep sleep state.
For example, if you wake up at 7:00 a.m., the crossing point would be 2:00 p.m., the ideal point when you can experience a balance of REM and SWS sleep state. Naps occurring before this crossing point will have more REM, while naps occurring after will have more SWS. A body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off if you nap before or after this crossing point, making it more difficult to fall asleep that evening.
How Long to Nap?
What is the ideal duration of a nap? It all depends upon a person’s objectives.
Goal: Re-Boot Your Brain
If a person wants to reboot their brain, then take an hour and half nap. This 90 minute nap is enough time to experience a full sleep cycle including SWS and REM, according to Dr. Mednick. When you awake, you will feel fully refreshed since the nap provided you with all of the restorative benefits.
Goal: Boost Memory
If an individual is looking to get a memory boost so they are sharp before an exam, then take an hour nap. A 60 minute nap is ample time for an individual to enter the SWS state, says Dr. Mednick. SWS is the sleep stage where a person consolidates new memories, especially fact based or episodic memory (autobiographical events.) Caution: Take a 60 minute nap well in advance of an exam or important presentation since you will be groggy for about an hour after awakening.
Want an energy boost and restore your mental alertness, then take a twenty minute power nap. Also known as a stage 2 nap, this 20 minute nap is ideal to increase alertness, sharpness, as well as for motor learning skills like playing the piano. “You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost,” according to Dr. Mednick.