Stay Fit On The Road: The Benefits Of A Power Nap

24 November 2016

Did you know that the likes of Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein were known to appreciate an afternoon nap? If fact, Churchill once said, "Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces."

A man sleeping at his desk with post its over his eyes

It's no wonder some of history's most preeminent figures preferred a short stint of sleep in their day. Plenty of experts have been touting the benefits of the nap for decades. There are plenty of studies that support daytime napping, showing that a short break can help improve many vital functions. With the demands of business travel often taking a toll on sleep schedules while ramping up stress levels, a power nap could be exactly what you need.

What is a Power Nap?

Conceived by James Maas, a Cornell University social psychologist, the power nap is a short nap that ranges between 10 to 20 minutes. The idea is to let the body and mind rest without entering the deep sleep phase. This is an important factor of the power nap as moving into deep sleep and waking before the body can complete a full sleep cycle can often lead to sleep inertia (a groggy and disoriented feeling) when waking up. Sticking to the short 10 to 20 minute timeframe avoids sleep inertia.    

A woman resting on a couch

The Benefits

Studies have shown that these quick bursts of rest have a number of positive effects. In fact, the length of time you can dedicate to sleep has been shown to improve different functions, with the power nap offering the highest return on time invested. In other words, you get the most bang for your buck.

  • 10 to 20 minutes: A quick and easy way to restore energy. As the body doesn't enter into deep sleep, it's easier to wake up and get straight back to work with a renewed sense of alertness.
  • 30 minutes: Some studies have shown that many people suffer from sleep inertia when napping for more than 20 minutes. It's not quite enough time to allow the restorative benefits of a nap.
  • 60 minutes: If you have time, an hour-long nap can help you restore memory functions. Though keep in mind that it's not quite enough time to allow the body to complete a full sleep cycle, which could lead to some grogginess when waking up.
  • 90 minutes: Giving the body enough time to complete a full sleep cycle, a 90 minute nap has shown to improve memory, alertness, energy and creativity.
A woman sleeping on a plane

The Negatives

As with most things to do with your health, the one size fits all approach does not apply here. Power naps may not be for everyone. If you have trouble sleeping anywhere outside of your own bed, or you find it impossible to fall asleep during the day, you're not likely to find any benefits from napping.

The amount of time dedicated to a nap is another sticking point for some. It is dependent on your personal needs. Some people can wake feeling refreshed and ready to go with as little as six minutes of rest, while others may need to go the full 20, 60 or 90 minutes to see maximum benefits. Still others may suffer from the effects of sleep inertia when napping for anything longer than 15 to 20 minutes. Experts recommend experimenting with different times to see what works best for you.

It's also important to recognise when napping may be interfering with your normal sleep schedule. Health experts recommend adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to maintain overall health. This is especially true when travelling for work. It allows the body to fully restore and combat a laundry list of ailments that can be brought on by increased stress.

Experts suggest that napping should be used as a supplement when needed. If you find that a midday nap hinders your ability to fall asleep at night, it's best to skip it all together. And, of course, always consult with your regular physician with any questions or concerns about disruptions in your sleep patterns.  

 

Images courtesy of Getty

Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.
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