I mentioned on Twitter that I had taken a power nap, but wasn’t sure if it was effective (I was a bit groggy afterward). footndale asked if I had followed the instructions on this excellent infographic on napping. I thought I would share.
Best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss offered his thoughts on forcing creativity in his post The Creativity Elixir: Is Genius On-Demand Possible?.
In his first point on timing the creative urge, he mentions one way to extend a creative work cycle:
I don’t believe that it isn’t possible to do more than 4 hours of good creative work per waking cycle. This can be extended only slightly by caffeine power naps (down a cup of espresso and then take a 20-minute nap) or “ultra-naps” that are multiples of the 90-minute ultradian cycle (I prefer 90 minutes or 3 hours).
For some reason, I never thought to use the ultra-strength power of espresso as I’ve mentioned my previous experiences with Caffeine Power Naps. Still, its good to see I’m in league with a best selling author.
I have written before about power naps before — short naps in the middle of the day that refresh and renew.
Now it seems that researchers have discovered that afternoon siestas have health benefits as well. A recent study (registration required) discovered that Greek men who took a regular afternoon naps were 37% less likely to die of heart disease than those who did not.
While the researchers admit that a single study does not make this conclusive, there are many physicians who see the benefit of a mid-day rest.
Specialists not involved with the study said there are sound biochemical reasons to believe that a nap may help protect against heart disease.
Essentially, they said, sleep at any time of day acts like a valve to release the stress of everyday life. Blood pressure is reduced and heart rates slow. At the same time, the immune system shores itself up. Increasingly, researchers are recognizing the role the immune system plays in heart disease.
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad takes an afternoon siesta every day right after lunch. He is the youngest 74-year-old I know. While I am sure this is only one part of his story of success, I can see how some rest during the day can be beneficial.
In my own experience, a 20 minute power nap has greatly benefited me on days I’m feeling drowsy. If I had the ability to integrate this into a regular daily pattern I would, but most client sites won’t put in a nap room just for my benefit.
As much as I’d like to be one of Steve Pavlina’s polyphasic mutants, its not a sleep structure I beleive will work with my job and family lifestyle. The basic gist of a polyhasic sleep schedule is to take many small naps throughout the day instead of a large chunk of time in the evenings. Mr. Pavlina indicates that after 90 days he sees no reason to switch back to being a hibernating “bear” in a monophasic sleep schedule. He has the advantage of setting his own work schedule (as he is self employed) and has only 1 young daughter. I don’t think it will work out for me.
One component of the polyphasic sleep schedule which has always run true for me, however, is the idea of a short nap: the so-called Power Naps. My first experiences with the power nap were with my dad. Each day, after returning home from the office to eat lunch, he would relax in his recliner. He would fall asleep until his office called for him. He would get up and go to his appointment none the worse for wear.
Having seen his example, I started the same technique in college. With classes scheduled around a central lunch break, I had time to squeeze in a quick snooze before afternoon class. I crashed on the couch in our apartment in favor of my bed… I didn’t want to be too comfortable and oversleep. Actually, I didn’t use an alarm clock; my internal clock was able to wake me up in 20 minutes every time. These refreshing naps recharged my mind and body and made long days of classes bearable.
These days I don’t take specific time for power napping unless I feel particularly drowsy. I feel a bit weird about it, so my particular method is to leave my employer’s property and park somewhere relatively quiet. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 20 minutes and crash. I find taking a half hour out of my afternoon for a nap is much more effective than other methods of trying to stay awake. Its certainly a better policy than incoherent time “on the clock”.
My understanding is that another coworker uses the same technique, although I’ve never talked to him about it. Some companies have seen the benefits of the power nap and even provide “relaxation rooms” for their employees. Nike is one of the biggest companies to give this benefit to its employees. There are other enlightened companies, especially in transportation, that encourage quick nap breaks.
One tweak to the power nap I recently came across is the Caffeine Nap. With this technique, you drink a cup of coffee followed by a nap chaser. The caffeine clears the drowiness during your sleep leaving you more alert afterward. I can vouch for the caffeine nap — I used to do it all the time. My routine was a little different, though, since I used it as a wake-up technique. I’d set my first alarm for an hour earlier than I needed to be up. When it went off, I’d turn on the coffee maker I prepared the evening before. I’d cool the coffee down with ice when it was ready, and drink it as quickly as I could. Once finished, I’d climb back into bed and fell back asleep. The second alarm would wake me at the time I needed to get up. I’d get up and be fully awake the second time.
One final note about power napping: get a clock with a nap button. This brilliant feature lets you set a nap alarm with one button click. I have an Emerson Alarm Clock with Nap Timer. This clock has given me a couple of problems with the regular alarms not going off and the radio turning on when I turn them on. It is also blindingly bright — I turn it toward the wall to be able to sleep. But the nap button! It makes all the other foibles disappear. You might have more luck with the Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock.
Here are a couple of resources I’ve found on the subject of power napping:
(hat tip: Randomize’s Caffeine Nap)