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What Is a Power Nap?

It is what used to be called a catnap. The term power nap was apparently coined by Cornell University social psychologist James Maas. Basically it is a short nap that is designed to refresh you. What does the research say?

According to Dr. Sara Mednick, at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, napping benefits cell repair, heart function, and hormonal maintenance. A power nap maximizes these benefits, by getting the rejuvenative effects in as short a time as possible. The brain benefits as well. A study done by NASA found that although naps don't aid alertness, they do improve memory functions.

Recent research also demonstrates that power naps can boost productivity, lower stress, and improve learning and mood (no surprise there). Looking at the MRIs of nappers, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that with a nap, brain activity stays high throughout the day. However, skip the nap, and brain activity declines later in the day.

Who Uses Power Naps?

Many busy executives who are deficient on regular night time sleep make time for short naps during the day. When Steve Fossett made his record 67-hour flight around-the-world alone in his jet, he took a couple dozen two-to-three minute naps as his only sleep, and claims that he awoke refreshed. When Lance Armstrong was training for the tour-de-france bicycle race, naps were an important part of his routine. In Iraq, U.S. Marines are instructed to take a power nap before going on patrol.

Napping 101

Your sleep normally comes in several stages. A power nap is aimed at achieving the first two stages. These are the falling-asleep stage of relaxation and slower respiration, and the second stage of light restful sleep. Since the first stage takes about ten minutes, and the second can last for about ten to twenty minutes, many people consider 20 minutes the ideal length for a power nap.

This issue of length is open to debate, though. It seems likely that the ideal time varies for individuals. Your own ideal nap length is probably best discovered through experimentation. The primary point here is that if you sleep too long, you get what is called "sleep inertia."

Sleep inertia is when you feel heavy, it is hard to focus, and your mind is sluggish. This is essentially the winding down of activity in the brain's prefrontal cortex. Nap too long, and it can take thirty minutes or more to "reboot."

A Powerful Napping Routine

Here is a two-step routine for power napping taken from research done at the Loughborough University in the UK.

1. Relax and drink a cup of coffee.

2. Close your eyes and let yourself fall asleep for 15 minutes.

The idea here is that your body takes time to process the caffeine in the coffee. You get your nap or "micro-sleep" in and the caffeine hits just as you are ready to wake up and get back to work. The researchers used sleep deprived subjects, who reported feeling very refreshed following this routine. It seems likely that this kind of power nap will work for those who are not as sleep deprived as well.

Can't Nap?

Some people have trouble falling asleep on short notice. Fifteen minutes of relaxing and daydreaming may have its benefits, but what if you really want that sleep time in your power nap? One thing that works every time for me is brainwave entrainment CDs. Listen to these (the good ones) and your brainwaves slow automatically, putting you into meditative state or asleep in my case.

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Ready To Try Brainwave Entrainment CD's for a power nap? Then check out the...

The Meditation Program

My video on the subject can be found here:

Power Naps Using Brainwave Entrainment


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