Feeling tired or groggy in the middle of the day? Do you often use coffee, soda, or energy drinks to fight through the fatigue and the dreaded long working hours? It just so happens that the solution may be the very thing you have been trying to avoid in the first place: sleep.
Many studies show that the power nap is the most effective way to revitalize your brain. Understanding the science behind how sleep works will help you nap more effective and be more productive. Sleep occurs in cycles of about 90 to 110 minutes, wherein there are four main stages characterized by different intensities of sleep and brain activites, each lasting between five and fifteen minutes.
The benefits of napping are directly related to the length of time you sleep for and during which sleep cycle you awaken. Naps that are 10-30 minutes in length only allow you to enter the first two stages of sleep, which are stages of light sleep.
In stage one, slow eye movement begins, muscles relax, and brain wave activity begins to slow. But this stage can be easily disrupted. If woken from this stage, you may feel as though you didn’t even fall sleep.
In sleep stage two, your brain begins to inhibit processing, ignoring any external stimuli it deems unharmful in an effort to relax you and give you a tranquil sleep.
This stage is where memory consolidation begins, which is the processing of information you learned while awake. Waking out of this stage has been shown to enhance productivity, improve cognitive function, memory, creativity, and most important of all, make you feel less tired.
Past these two stages, it is not beneficial to wake until the sleep cycle is finished.
In stage three and beyond, you begin to experience sleep inertia when awakened.
This is because your body awakens out of deep sleep, where motor dexterity is decreased. Awakened here, you will feel groggy and intensely sleepy.
Many people who deem naps non-beneficial for them are likely napping too long or waking up during a deep sleep stage. If you’re going to take a nap, make sure it is no longer than 30 minutes; otherwise, it may do more harm than good to the rest of your day’s productivity.