If you find yourself feeling sleepy in the afternoon, you typically have two options: reach for a cup of coffee, or take a nap. Coffee is delicious, and certainly has its place in countering sleepiness – but in many cases, a power nap might be way more effective. If you’re wondering how to take a power nap, we’ve got you covered.

 

What Is a Power Nap?

A power nap is a loosely defined term that typically refers to a short nap, often in the 10-20 minute range. They are ideal for a mid-day pick-me-up, and don’t take up a lot of time. Power naps are becoming quite popular, so much so that there are actually “nap cafes” popping up.

 

How to Power Nap

First things first, understand this: power napping is not the same as sleeping. You may drift off to sleep, yes, but it’s such a short period of time that you will stay in a very light sleep cycle. In some cases you may not even really fall asleep, but simply stay in a relaxed, semi-conscious state for the length of your nap.

To learn how to power nap, consider these two factors: environment, and timing.

First, you want a restful environment that’s quiet and dim/dark. Ideally this could be your bed, but a dark corner of your office may suffice as well. You’ll want to make yourself comfortable and try to calm your mind.

Second, timing is key. As we discussed in our ideal nap length article, you want to allow enough time to relax and rest, but you don’t want to sleep too long and end up waking up mid-cycle. Using a nap alarm is vital, as you may find yourself sleeping for a lot longer than intended if you don’t use an alarm.

To power nap, you’ll typically want to set an alarm for just 10-20 minutesmaybe up to 25 minutes. Now, you might be thinking – it takes me that long just to fall asleep! But again, remember that you don’t necessarily have to fall asleep to benefit from a power nap. Even just relaxing and shutting your eyes for a few minutes can be beneficial.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

Although this sounds like a silly statement, it’s true: napping takes practice. It takes some time to learn how your body reacts to napping, and what the ideal nap length is for you.

If you find you wake up feeling more tired than before your nap, you’re probably sleeping for too long. You might be entering a REM sleep cycle, which is too deep for a power nap.

If you find you wake up still feeling drowsy, you may wish to allow a bit more time – but don’t push it past 30 minutes at the most.

 

The Pro-Level Power Nap

Moving beyond the basics, you may find yourself seeking to fully optimize your napping. And who could blame you – naps come with significant benefits, ranging from enhanced productivity to a better mood.

Once you’ve learned how to power nap and identified what works for you, you can try some advanced techniques like listening to ambient music or binaural beats, practicing meditation, etc. There are also some smartphone apps that are specifically designed for optimizing napping, like Pzizz. You may even try some crazy-sounding-yet-oddly-effective techniques like the coffee nap, in which you chug a cup of Joe before hitting the hay for a few minutes.

Ultimately there are a ton of different things you can try to optimize your naps. If you have some tips and tricks that have worked for you, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.

Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is a freelance writer, CPAP user, and self-proclaimed sleep enthusiast from the Seattle area. When he's not writing or researching about sleep science, you can find him snowboarding, cooking or traveling the world. Contact him at [email protected]

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