Taking Power Naps during High-Stress Days

Why use power naps and how they help us be healthier and better at what we do

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Andreas Maier
Andreas Maier

As the CEO of a company with over 150 employees and clients worldwide, stress is at my door every other hour. Hard work always brings matters to a burn-down state. This condition can’t be avoided. In time, your brain will eventually overheat. It would be best if you let some steam somehow off.

Getting a good night’s sleep and a power nap in the office helps improve focus, decision-making, and memory. There are strong indicators that sleep enhances life quality, so I decided to delve deeper into the subject.

What’s most important to know about power naps is that there is no legal matric for them. When a drunk driver crashes, the police report is pretty clear about the reason for the reckless driving. However, no specific penalties apply when the driver was tired, and I think sleep deprivation is just as debilitating, if not more, than alcohol.

What is a power nap?

A good night’s sleep involves the so-called deep sleep, along with the ‘rapid eye movement phase’ (REM), when your brain waves slow down. In contrast, power naps rarely reach those stages due to their shorter duration. Power naps range in time from 15 to 30 minutes, and some can go even longer.

Every person has a unique predisposition to siestas and how beneficial they can be. Everybody sleeps at night, but daytime naps become more relevant, the busier our lives become. Power naps are pure productivity boosters when taken at the right time and in suitable settings.

Why power naps?

Some of the world’s biggest companies are avid proponents of power naps during work hours for their employees. Uber, Google, Samsung, even NASA have recognized the value of a rejuvenated mind and body. They have incorporated this notion into the core values of their company. This fact is a pretty potent indicator showing that studies highlighting the crucial importance of sleep are not far from the truth.

Some statistics show a sleep-deprivation-related accident in the US every hour! Car crashes have immediate consequences, and usually pretty bad ones. However, imagine the repercussions from a single wrong decision made by a high-power person who happened to be a little exhausted that day. Sleep deprivation is a silent killer and must be taken seriously.

 How long is a power nap?

There are several suggestions for the ideal timing and duration of power naps. Still, this discussion leads to intricate details about sleep phases and the specific brain wavelength during each. I won’t go that far, but suffice it to say, normal night sleep consists of a series of sleep phases, each with different levels of brain activity patterns, among other things. Each of these phases is approximately 90 minutes of length and happens in sequence, during the long night sleep.

However, daytime naps are a different animal. You can reduce the long night phases into shorter ones, lasting around 25-30 minutes. The shortness of these naps is beneficial from multiple aspects. First, they don’t take as much time as a typical night’s sleep phase, and second – they won’t interfere with how easy you fall asleep the following night.

Of course, a 20 min nap can improve alertness and remove grogginess, but a 90 min nap additionally enhances your memory and boosts creativity. However, anything above can make you oversleep, which is not ideal because it may ruin your regular sleep schedule.

How to power nap?

One of the most notable facts about power naps is not to do them when it’s too close to shutting down for the night. If you take them too late during the day, it will make you even more restless during the following night. It’s important to note that power naps, although very beneficial, are not for everyone. People with insomnia or trouble falling asleep should carefully consider their nap patterns.

Power naps work best when you already have a pretty solid sleeping routine.

A successful daytime eye-shutter has a few essential requirements. First, you best have your phone switched. Don’t power nap while hungry. Establishing a nap time routine is detrimental. As immeasurable creatures of habit, humans can quickly pick up any new pattern, including daytime naps, if they can practice it at the same time of the day, every day. Some countries have siestas already embedded in their culture since everyone agreed to make it part of their lives.

Power nap as a productivity booster

Sleep experts suggest that taking enough rest not only revigorates the body and the mind but creates opportunities for a career upgrade. A well-rested mind can do so much more than its more tired counter-part. You recover much quicker from stressful situations, focus more on what you are doing, and are less likely to make a mistake. Sleep-deprivation is one of the major culprits when it comes to work-related burnouts.

Science brings more and more evidence that power naps improve memory recall and the quality of all decisions. An example of this is NASA’s sleep-sensitive studies that explain some of the lesser-known benefits from power naps. Their research on the positive effects sleeps has on pilots is exemplary and even led to popularizing the phrase “NASA naps.” Their studies show that less than 30 min rest in the cockpit considerably increases the pilot’s alertness.


About the Author

Like Charlotte Brontë eloquently once said: “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” and the prophetic wisdom of these words still resonates today, even with heightened intensity. Power naps can not only improve the quality of living, but it can save lives. The positive effects of power naps are less visible in industries where immediate consequences are not immediately visible—all the more reasons why we should collectively pay more attention to our sleep meter.

Andreas is a result-oriented CEO who brings nearly 30 years of experience gained in the high-tech industry. His experience ranges up to leading positions in Fortune 100 companies such as rentalcars.com (PCLN) or Intrasoft International, a leading EU based R&D software vendor, and CodeCoda Ltd. He holds a Ph.D. in Neural Networks from the University of Cologne, Germany.

In the past Andreas has successfully founded and co-founded several startups among others XXL Cloud Inc., eShopLeasing Ltd, and WDS Consulting SA. His expertise is strongly focused on modern headless eCommerce and the optimization of processes in IT ecosystems.

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