Written by Jori Hamilton, Guest Writer
When you were a kid, you might have fought your parents every afternoon when they tried to get you down for a nap. There was too much to do and see, right? Now, as an adult, you probably relish any time you’re able to get a few minutes of extra shut-eye in the afternoon, especially as you’re nodding off while staring at your computer screen or trying to motivate yourself to go somewhere.
It’s not uncommon for most people to experience drowsiness about 8 hours after waking for the day, which can often lead to an “afternoon slump.” Whether you’re working or trying to focus on something else, that can make it hard to focus, and it’s easy to feel like your energy is completely gone.
The solution? Try taking a power nap. Power naps are anywhere from 10-20 minutes long, and they can provide your mind and body with incredible benefits without leaving you feeling tired and sluggish afterward.
With so many Americans struggling to get enough sleep, sneaking in a quick power nap each day could boost your overall health and well-being, and help you fight back against the dreaded afternoon slump.
Still not convinced? Let’s cover a few benefits of afternoon power naps and why you should fit this wellness activity into your day.
1. They Can Boost Your Energy
This might be the most obvious benefit, but it’s also probably what you’re looking for the most when you’re considering a power nap. If you’re feeling sluggish during the day, a quick nap is one of the best ways to boost your energy levels and let you “power” through the rest of your afternoon.
Instead of taking a nap, many people go for an extra cup of coffee or an energy drink in the afternoon. That might work as a quick fix, but too much caffeine can cause issues like:
- Digestive problems
- Muscle breakdown
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
A quick nap has virtually no adverse effects and can give you the same energy boost you’re looking for. If you have an extra 20 minutes in your afternoon and can fall asleep quickly, don’t head to the coffee shop, head to the sofa or your bed.
2. You’ll Have Increased Alertness
In addition to energy, power naps can improve your alertness. When you wake up from a 10-20 minute nap, you’ll be able to stay focused longer, your cognitive reaction time will be better, and it can improve your psychomotor speed. If you’re trying to get through an assignment while working or you need to make sure you’re focused on a specific task, napping for the right amount of time can help.
Make sure you follow the guidelines for what a “power nap” really is. Napping and sleeping are actually two different things. A power nap allows you to enter the first, and possibly the second stage of sleep, but not a full cycle. If you sleep for too long, you might wake up feeling groggy, and you may have a harder time falling asleep at night, creating an unhealthy cycle in your sleep patterns.
3. They Can Help You Manage Your Mental Health
Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on your health. Some of the risks include:
- Delayed reaction time
- Difficulty processing information
- Reduced motivation
- Short-term memory problems
Having a sleep deficit can also impact your mental health and contribute to feelings of depression. Unfortunately, that often creates a vicious cycle as depression can cause fatigue. People who struggle with depression often have sleep problems, either struggling to sleep at all or sleeping too much.
Taking a power nap reduces mental tension and can help boost your mood. It also eases stress, so even if you’re feeling tired and depressed when you close your eyes, you might feel better after 20 minutes of shut-eye. Napping can also reduce the effects of anxiety. It might seem hard to fall asleep when you’re dealing with excessive worry and fear. But, if you can get yourself into a state that allows you to nap during the day, you’ll usually wake up calmer and more in control of your emotions.
4. They Can Improve Your Physical Well-Being
As you can see, there are plenty of mental and emotional benefits to taking an afternoon power nap. But, it’s a great way to recharge your body, too!
Taking a nap can lower your blood pressure, which tends to go hand-in-hand with reduced stress levels. It’s the physical manifestation of your body releasing tension. So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, a nap could be doing something good for your physical health as well as any mental health struggles.
Studies have also shown that napping helps to boost the immune system, which can help your body remain strong and fight off infections and diseases. It reduces your risk of heart disease, and short naps can even help to reduce the risk of a stroke. Again, it’s important to make sure you’re not napping for too long, or those risks can increase. Stick to the 10-20 minute timeframe, and you’ll be hitting the “sweet spot” for a natural health boost.
If you dig a little deeper, the physical health benefits of napping might surprise you. For example, power naps are a great option for women who struggle to get “in the mood.” Sleep problems are often associated with low libido in women, in addition to other lifestyle factors. By taking regular power naps, you can boost your sex drive naturally and safely while enjoying other benefits along the way.
We live in a culture that tends to think naps are “lazy,” but that really isn’t the case. It’s never a good feeling to lose your motivation and productivity throughout the day. It’s worse when it starts to take a toll on your mental and physical health.
Keep these benefits in mind if you tend to feel fatigued during the day. Or, consider power napping a preventative health measure if you’re someone who regularly doesn’t get enough sleep each night. By taking just a small chunk of time out of your day to rest, you’ll be practicing self-care, and you’ll reap the rewards.