THE POWER OF EFFECTIVE NAPPING
ONE OF THE MOST BENEFICIAL LIFE PRACTICES


(Revised, 5/14)

"Smart energy management is one of the very top life skills.  It can turn around one's life totally, creating a whole new life with more energy and alot more of 'feeling good'." 

"Imagine how life would be if you felt refreshed all the time.  I believe it is absolutely essential that you create that condition in your life, as it will contribute greatly to your 'feeling' of 'enduring happiness', as a positive current underneath all of life."

                                                          The BuddhaKahuna

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DO THIS:

1st, insert the practice of napping, at strategic times
2nd, upgrade the effectiveness of the naps, by following the suggestions
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EASY, LOW HANGING FRUIT

We speak alot about meditation and its benefits (which are considerable), but we often fail to pick off some of the "low hanging fruit" from the tree of health.  We can benefit most easily from simply taking regular naps during the day or one mid-afternoon-slump nap.

A nap actually produces psychological benefits just in terms of putting in relaxation (to destress, but also to signal the brain that "life is safe", which is an actual message the amygdala receives, helping it not to be so reactive).  

Our circadian rhythms (our bodies' ups and downs go in a pattern during the day) have the body settling down in an energy "slump" of sorts, which is the perfect time for a nap.  The nap, ironically, will increase our productivity (plus how we feel) so much that our net productivity, adjusting for the nap time, will actually be greater!!!! 

The "afternoon slump" has the reality of having you feel less alert and has you being less able to function well.  It occurs usually between 1:30 and 3 p.m..  A 10-20 minute nap will increase alertness by about 50% and productivity by about 40%, per actual studies.


THE BENEFITS

Psychologically refreshed, feel better (long term effect:  more calmness, less reactivity in terms of both
    sensitivity and the size of the reaction)
Increases endurance
Alertness dramatically increased
Mental performance increased
Memory enhanced (short term, long term)
Destresses, reduces bad effects of even mildlly tired body
    Reduces heart disease


HOW MUCH

Any amount is good.  1 minute, every hour is beneficial;  5 is better.  Mostly a "real nap" is 15 to 30 minutes at a time (but not more than 30, as grogginess will occur if one naps long enought to go into a deeper sleep cycle).  (I found that 20 minutes was best for me, and I also found that if I let myself sleep for as long as I wanted, even if I was very tired, I was dopey the whole rest of the day.)

Always use a timer! (See The Timer Tool, and its benefits and uses.)

An alternate strategy is to sleep at least 60 minutes (for more benefits), but you'll may wake up with a little grogginess.  (But always avoid 30+ minutes, as that leads you into high grogginess, as a natural part of the sleep cycle - in fact it is not good to have an alarm clock go off in the morning in that "stage 3", 30-60 minute period - you will feel like you hadn't slept at all.) 

A full 90 minute cycle could be the best, possibly giving you a second day to live, but you'll have to experiment to see if it works for you.  Even if you are only able to do it on weekends, you may have a much better weekend anyway!


WHEN

The once a day nap:  The best for adults is between 1 pm and 3 pm (when the body secretes higher melatonin and "slumps"); teenagers ideally would do about 4 pm.  The nap should be anywhere between 15 minutes and 30 minutes (but not more than 30). 

The periodic nap/break:   One of the most effective people I know of takes a 15 minute nap after every 90 minute period of writing.

A 5 minute nap every hour is also highly recommended, as it creates massive relaxation and stress reduction benefits, besides changing the feeling of "well-being" of the person for the awake time. 


A VARIATION

Slowing one's mind down may cause lots of other things to rush into one's mind.  To accommodate those, to harvest them, and to further calm my mind, I allow myself to write out anything I need to do, any thought that is dominant on my mind, etc.  The writing has me put the concerns, thoughts, to dos, etc. aside for the moment, so I can completely relax.  Then I can follow up on those items later, as I so choose.  (If I do write alot, I reset the timer)


READ THIS FOR MORE IN-DEPTH UNDERSTANDING

Become an expert in sleep.  Read at least the summary called  Sleep Less, Sleep Better , noting particularly the "sleep better" part. 

You might want to print out the chart published by the Boston Globe:  A One Page Guide To Napping


A BACK UP DISCUSSION

I would recommend that you use systematic napping as a lifestyle - it'll change your life far what you can imagine now. 

I think that the following quotes should help give you a perspective and an appreciation on why you should adopt this practice as one of the most important practices in your life.

"A great nap can turn your day around. Napping puts the body in a relaxed state, which counteracts the effects of daily stress."

"Next time you feel tired and sleepy during the day and want to buy some coffee, think again.", UC San Diego sleep scientist Sara Mednick says you would be better off taking a nap instead.

"People who napped at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week, were 37 percent less likely to die from heart disease."

Napping is a proven way to clear out the cobwebs and pave the way for a more productive afternoon

"Naps are one of the most powerful alertness strategies," says Mark Rosekind, PhD, president and chief scientist at Alertness Solutions. "It is the only strategy that gets directly to the 'sleep debt' we rack up at night when we don't get the amount we need."

"You need to identify signs for you that you are off your game, and those are cues that you should use to indicate you need a nap," says Rosekind. "When you're not getting enough sleep, it can degrade all aspects of who you are — affect your judgment and decision making. It can reduce your reaction time, your memory, your communication skills, and these things can go down 20%-50%."

"When I was at NASA we gave the pilots a planned nap in the cockpit," says Rosekind, who is a board member of the National Sleep Foundation. "While two pilots flew the plane, the third would have 40 minutes to nap. We found they would sleep for 26 minutes, which boosted their performance by 34% and their alertness by 54%."

These students took a 90-minute nap, quite a luxury for most adults. But even a 12-minute nap can boost some forms of memory, adds Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School.

Mitsuo Hayashi, Ph.D. and Tadao Hori, Ph.D.[2] have demonstrated that a nap improves mental performance even after a full night's sleep.


APPENDIX - DIFFERENT NAPS AT DIFFERENT TIMES

Although I included a quick summary box for the normal sleep/nap cycle, there will actually be a variation that will make certain stages last longer.  We can "engineer" the nap (a "designer nap") to get more repair time or more creative time or more memory consolidation (students after studying something) or just plain refresher time.    Read research and recognized top nap expert Sara Mednick's book:  Take A Nap, Change Your Life, as it has a great explanation of how sleep works and also how to make the cycles work for you.


Also

See the videos, books below. 

Also, especially read "the key life principle" that underlies all of this!


WHAT IS "STRATEGIC" NAPPING?

When you are clear that you need rest during the day, decide whether to do a "refresher", a "recovery", or a complete sleep cycle nap.  See sidebar, below, for how long they should be.


RELATED

Honoring The Body's "Rhythms" For Your Best Health, Emotions And Productivity 

Sleep - Main Page 

Sleep Less, Sleep  
    Better  

Rx For Anxiety

Relaxation  

The key life principle

Staying In The Zone - Homeostasis - A Super-principle for all of life to practice all the time throughout every day.


Video

Sara Mednick, Take A Nap Change Your Life (18 min.)


Book

Read research and recognized top nap expert Sara Mednick's book:  Take A Nap, Change Your Life, as it has a great explanation of how sleep works and also how to make the cycles work for you.


Power mid-day  "sleeps"

Winston Churchill is known for his statement that a (big) nap during the day gives you two days.

John F. Kennedy went to bed most afternoons and slept a full sleep cycle.

And many presidents and prominent leaders use that strategy.
Nap, deep relax

Relax...10, breathe in, relax...9, breathe in, relax...8... - find a spot to release tension in. 

Don't "think" while napping, say the above in your head.  Go to 0, repeat.

To maximize the effect, relax a spot on each count, picking whatever spot that could use relaxing.

Nap durations, types

1+ minutes - helpful
15 - 20 - good
30 - 60 - groggy, avoid
60+ - very good, slight grogginess
90 - Potentially great

[I use the "Sleep Cycle" app and its sister "Power Nap" app to monitor the quality of my sleep and/or to wake me up at the right part of the sleep cycle or the nap.

(But, it varies by time of day.  See the appendix at end of this page.  Plus we may wish to nap for a particular purpose:
1.  Repair and emotional regulation (60+ min.) or
2.  Being sharper and being more alert (less than 30)  
Some days, I choose different ones than other days.  A 60+ is a huge booster!

Studies have shown that a tired person processes thoughts more negatively - so naps are good happiness enablers.

Please don't read this casually.  Getting good at this can change your life!  Study it! Master it!!