Power Napping


Time is money. That’s why the vast majority of people focus on satisfying their entire need for sleep at a stretch.  Nevertheless, more and more people rely on “power napping”. But does the nap really help?

The Power Nap is very frowned upon in Germany. Managers joke “Snoozing is losing” – who naps, loses. In fact, however, those who don’t sleep lose. Sleep disturbances lead to hundreds of thousands of sick notes and thus the German economy loses 60 billion euros a year. The Americans are one step ahead of us there. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for instance praises his eight-hour sleep. At Google headquarters loungers are available for employees, Nike has dormitories in Portland ready and Uber in San Francisco as well. Ariana Huffington touts for concept for success sleep. Midday sleeps are also commonplace in China and Japan. But how does power napping actually work?

“Powernap” refers to a short sleep (nap) that returns your capacity (power). The short midday nap is supposed to counteract the energy slump between 12 and 14 o’clock. The secret: It’s adding by subtracting! 10 to 20 minutes are already enough to achieve various positive effects.

Effects of the power nap

  • positive impact on your short term and long term memory
  • performance increase of up to 35 percent, partially even enhancements of your concentration and alertness by up to 100 percent
  • increase of physical and mental capability
  •  compensation of the nocturnal sleep deficiency
  • weight reduction
  •  protection against heart diseases: napping half an hour 3 times a week can reduce the heart attack risk up to 37 percent
  •  reinforcement of the immune system
  •  cheerfullness: a nap increases the serontonin concentration in the blood, a thymoleptic  hormone that lifts your mood
  • prevents general fatigue and burnouts
  • reduction of stress hormones in the blood

Power napping stunnes science

Believe me or not but even 5 to 6 minutes power napping happen to result in measurable improvements. In a study conducted in Düsseldorf in 2008, test persons had to remember a list of words. They were randomly divided into 3 groups. Group 1 remained awake, group 2 was allowed to sleep for 40 minutes and group 3 completed a six-minute power napping session. The results of the evaluation were amazing. The performance of the awake remained about the same, the performance of the group with the 40-minute sleep was already better and the six-minute power napper were by far the best!
In cooperation with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, NASA carried out studies with astronauts on the subject of power napping. The result: Regular short naps have a very positive effect on memory performance.

The particular sleep cycles and their consequences

The arcanum of power napping: Brevity is the soul of wit. Rule number 1 reads as follows: Do not sleep longer than 20 minutes! Anything apart from that happens to be contraproductive and results in negative consequences for your body. In the following there are summarised specific sleep stages and there impacts:

DurationDenotation of sleep
10 to 20 minutes of sleepPowernap: Doozing or light sleep
  • quickly recharge energy
  • not tired (anymore) afterwards but awake and improved concentrativeness
30 minutes of sleepDeeper sleep stages are temporarily reached
  • neither short nor long enough to rest
  • very tired when waking up and almost no positive impact on your body
60 minutes of sleepIdeal deep sleep
  • Knowledge is being processed and anchored in your brain
  • yet tired when waking up because no full sleep cycle is reached
90 minutes of sleepComplete sleep cycle including REM sleep
  • you feel recovered
  • during the REM sleep learning processes take place
  • similar to a nocturnal sleep but not that intensive

Forgo the coffee?

No worries, you don’t have to give up your coffee after lunch. This is due to the fact that the caffeine only takes effect after 20 to 30 minutes. So if you drink an espresso and fall asleep immediately, you should ideally use both the power nap and the stimulating caffeine. But what is the actual reason for this?

The path from the stomach to the brain is long. The caffeine must first be absorbed by the body and transported to the brain by the bloodstream. Once there, the caffeine molecules begin to contest with the adenosine molecules for the receptors. Adenosine makes us tired, so we only wake up because the caffeine molecules supplant the adenosine molecules. And this whole process takes quite a while, thus you can calmly absolve a brief power nap.

Can power napping be learned?

It may sound odd but power napping can actually be learned. In the beginning it is recommended to take an apple, key or pen in your hand. When the deep sleep stage begins the muscles relax, the hand opens and the object falls down. Otherwise, simply setting up an alarm certainly works as well. The body gradually becomes familiar with the midday nap, thus you fall asleep faster and can fully use the 20 minutes of sleep. However, this particular process can also be manually accelerated. With yoga and relaxation exercises you can relax your body and mind better and fall asleep faster.
A well-known deep relaxation technique is the progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR is based upon the simple practice of tensing, or tightening, one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxion phase with release of the tension. Most practitioners recommend tensing and relaxing the muscle groups one at a time in a specific order, generally beginning with the lower extremities and ending with the face, abdomen, and chest. It works as follows:
  1.  While inhaling, contract one muscle group (e.g. upper thighs) for 5 to 10 seconds, then exhale and suddenly release the tension in that muscle group.
  2.  Give yourself 10 to 20 seconds to relax, and then move on to the next muscle group (e.g. buttocks).
  3. While releasing the tension, try to focus on the changes you feel when the muscle group is relaxed. Imagery may be helpful in conjunction with the release of tension, such as imagining that stressful feelings are flowing out of your body as you relax each muscle.
  4. Gradually work your wayp up the body contracting and relaxing muscle groups.

How much sleep do I actually need?

It’s a matter of common knowledge that the need for sleep varies individually from person to person and depending on age. However, those who sleep for less than 7 hours in the long term risk health problems and obeseness. More than 9 hours are also considered unhealthy. Generally, it can be said that the effect of sleep depends more on the quality than on the duration. And likewise one can neither bank sleep in advance nor catch up on missed sleep. Thus, sleep is indispensable. But now we’ll have a look at the guidelines  determined by the National Sleep Foundation:

  • neonates (0 – 3 months): 14 to 17 hours
  • infants (4 – 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
  • infants (1 – 2  years): 11 to 14 hours
  • preschooler (3 – 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
  • childreen in school age (6 – 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
  • teenager (14 – 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
  • young adults (18 – 25 years): 7 to 9 hours
  • adults (26 – 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
  • elderlies (65+ years): 7 to 8 hours

Alter life for the better using power naps

Regular poweraps can have significantly positive effects on your physical and mental health. In order to benefit from the positive effects, however, you should really sleep for a short period of time. Otherwise it has a counterproductive impact. But those who train power napping can fall asleep almost instantaneously and wake up on time just using their biological clock. This can have a positive effect and the nap allows your body to relax and refill its reserves. Next time just interrupt your work with a turbo nap. It will be worth it.


Featured image: maxpixel.net

Sources: einfach-gesund-schlafen.com, stern.de, getsurance.de, snoozeproject.de, fitforfun.de, runtastic.com, wikipedia.org, welt.de, apotheken-umschau.de, n-tv.de, einfach-gesund-schlafen.com, webmd.com

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