Power Naps: Getting More Sleep & Energy in 20 Minutes a Day

Last Updated May 18, 2023

What are the benefits of power naps?

Doing nothing is hard work. The sentence alone sounds like it came from Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde a century ago, but even today, it is apt for our world. Constantly flooded with notifications, little dopamine rushes, and unlimited entertainment options laced with forever ticking work deadlines.

In all of these commotions, we forget or try to forget one superpower we have. We can reboot our mind and body with short sleep. How about that? Sometimes stopping to do nothing can help you a lot.

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And if it refreshes your mind and divides the day into manageable chunks, you can call it a 'Power Nap.' But are power naps really that good? And what are the health benefits of a power nap? We will find similar answers to more such questions related to napping, afternoon sleep, midday nap, and siesta (you name it) in this blog post.

power naps - getting more sleep & energy in 20 minutes a day

A power nap can enhance memory, and increase creativity, while reducing blood pressure, stress and anxiety. Not only that, but a good siesta can also boost your immune system and brain functions and can bring down the risk of cardiac diseases. But don't overdo it. If you sleep too long during the day or late in the evening, the activity of doing nothing for prolonged hours can disturb your body clock. And that can give you sleep inertia (the groggy, tired feeling) and rob you of your valuable nighttime sleep. Let's look at some disadvantages first, and then we will explore the benefits and effects of a good nap in our lives.

What are the disadvantages of taking a nap?

First and foremost, do not equate an afternoon nap with your nighttime sleep. Secondly, the more you try to replace your night sleep quota with a long siesta, the more you will feel short on energy and motivation. And why is that?

It disrupts your sleeping patterns:

Students and Professionals working from home often fall into this vicious cycle. They study or work overnight and try to compensate for one long stretch of night sleep with scattered chunks of daytime naps. Now, if you have been there, you would know the dilemma; you try to sleep during the day, you sleep too much, and now you are awake at night, and the cycle continues.

sleepy young business woman sitting at office desk

It gives you sleep inertia:

Take longer naps, and you will wake up like the protagonist of a time-travel movie - disoriented and confused. A snooze longer than an hour makes you groggy and slow enough for a while to bring down your ability to recall and perform high-functioning tasks at hand. This is one of the reasons why napping at the workplace is still a debatable issue but slowly things are changing and many offices are including ‘nap time’ in their work schedule.

too much midday naps can affect your night sleep

Also, in many studies, it has come out that an afternoon nap lasting more than 60 minutes can increase the risk of type-2 diabetes, metabolic problems, and cardiovascular diseases. So, in a way, daytime napping can be an early indicator of ill health, think of excessive sleeping as more of a symptom than a cause (Correlation than causation) for future effects on your body. But that being said, enough data still needs to come out to support these studies, and for the time being, you can still enjoy your post-lunch short snooze fest as a healthy adult.

What happens to your body when you take a power nap?

Sleep functions on so many levels, from restoring your energy to repairing your muscles to enhancing your mood and alertness. But sleep has many layers that allow your body, hormones, and nerves to take over in subsequent stages. The sensory assaults you face while awake are replaced by various functions that help your body and mind recover and rejuvenate. Let's start by looking into sleep stages and how a power nap benefits further.

Stage 1 or N1 or Light Sleep

This is just the start of your whole sleep cycle. After that, you swing between wakefulness and being asleep. If you're relaxed and not thinking much, your heart pumping rate will go down, and your eyelids will feel slightly heavy. Your body temperature will drop slightly, and your muscles will be relaxed. All of these will take more or less 10 minutes. N1 is how your mind prepares your body for a relaxing time.

Stage 2 or N2 or Power Nap

It is in the second stage when sleep really kicks in. Your eye movement slows down, and so do your heart rate and brain waves. As a result, your body temperature drops further and settles to an optimum level. Slower breathing reduces blood pressure, which in turn lowers cortisol levels, thereby reducing stress and anxiety. Stage 2 lasts for 30 to 60 minutes. This is what we also know as the 'Power Nap'.

businessman tired from overtime workload at the home office

Stage 3 or N3 or Restorative Sleep

As your muscles have relaxed, heart rates and brain activity has slowed down in this phase, so your body starts working on neural connections and the immune system. Your neuroendocrine system that takes care of hormonal secretion and nerve impulses starts a routine check across the body. This is why N3 is often called restorative sleep. And this is one of the many reasons your brain hates waking up during this sleep phase. Stage 3 lasts for 20-40 minutes. Your heart loves it if you reach this phase often during your power nap. It has been found in many studies that restorative sleep can work wonders for those with heart ailments and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Stage 4 or REM phase (Rapid Eye Movement)

By the time you reach stage 4, you are already in a deep sleep. How do you find out if someone is really into this stage? Look at their eyelids. You will find eyes moving rapidly underneath. Why does it happen?

There are many theories around this phenomenon, also known as REM sleep. The first theory is it happens due to increased brain activity which might mean that the person you are looking at is dreaming. While another theory suggests that rather than dreaming, it is the brain processing, sorting, and categorizing memories. And that is one of the reasons why REM sleep can help you solve a creative problem if you 'sleep on it' instead of stressing over it.

woman in deep sleep at home

REM sleep also helps infants and toddlers to create, form new ones and restore memories by repairing neural connections and moving them into long-term storage areas of the brain. Stage 4 or REM sleep can go on for 90 minutes with a break of 10 minutes in between.

Since your heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and brain waves increase (almost very near to the waking stage) during this phase. Therefore, it is better to enter the REM stage when you have less disturbance and enough time at hand (that is, during your night sleep).

Overall a good nap can also regulate your appetite by restricting the release of metabolic hormones while you sleep. In addition, it can regulate White Blood Cells in your body, which further helps with skin and tissue regeneration. But how to decide the ideal duration of a nap, especially if it is so beneficial for us? Should it be 40 minutes, 20 minutes, or 90 minutes?

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How long should I power nap?

A quick nap of 10 to 30 minutes is good enough to energize you for the rest of the day. And if it's a Sunday afternoon and you are expecting any guests, then you can also plan for the big power nap of 90 minutes.

shocked young woman in pajama with alarm clock

Why are we being so specific? As you have read above, sleep has different stages, so the naps should be planned accordingly. While it is okay to sleep through all three phases of NREM sleep or, as they are called, light sleep, venturing into deep sleep mode or REM stage can give you sleep inertia if someone wakes you up in between your midday nap. You will wake up groggy and disoriented, wanting more sleep than your body needs and unsatisfied with the quality of the slumber you just had.

Even in its internal research, NASA found that a 26-minute nap in the cockpit improved the alertness level of pilots by 54% and their job performance by 34%. However, there was no improvement in the pilots who preferred not taking a nap. Clearly, power napping is not for everyone.

You need not go as far as a 90-minute power nap (and you can't if you are stuck in a day job) every day, but you can start from a 10-minute one, slowly increasing it to 20 minutes. Set the alarm. Don't sleep too late, say around 3-4 PM, because that will disrupt your night's sleep. And remember, you are only taking it so that you boost forward your day with more energy.

Is napping good or bad?

Power napping has the ability to divide your day into two productive halves - pre-nap and post-nap sessions. Although it is not replaceable with night sleep, a napping strategy can still be very effective in planning your day and making it more productive than usual. No wonder corporate offices are also trying to explore the benefits of a 'nap time' for improving the efficiency of their employees.

angry boss looking at employees sleeping in meeting room at office

Napping can be good if it is done in moderation. For example, a 20-minute nap can improve your working memory and problem-solving skills. It can recharge your brain will power and can bring down your stress level. If it improves your cognitive functions, a nap is good for your overall well-being.

On the other hand, too many naps or longer naps lasting more than an hour or two can drain your energy and disorient your mental status after you wake up. As the body resists coming out of a deep sleep, you might not feel content even after sleeping for many hours.

Also, check if you are taking sleep replacement naps like students or working professionals often do. If you are napping out of stress, inability to sleep at night, or other factors like sleep apnea or similar breathing problems, it might not give you the desired benefits. In fact, one study found that too much daytime napping can also be an early indicator of cardiovascular diseases. So poor sleep quality is not something worth ignoring; it can be a symptom of many underlying issues.

Do naps make you look younger?

Yes. In fact, sleeping properly and reducing stress in your daily life can work like a cosmetic tip. So beauty sleep is not a myth; it's a part of time-tested, ancient wisdom. So how proper night sleep followed by a short afternoon nap helps you keep the glow of your face and skin?

young handsome man during spa procedure

When you sleep, your body releases the HGH hormone, which regulates metabolism and collagen production. Collagen is an essential protein that helps build your skin, bone, and connective tissues. It takes care of your nail growth. It betters your skin's elasticity and rejuvenates cells, tissues, and organs while taking care of the immune system. Consider it as a nature facelift. And all of it with one good sleep.

  1. When you don't take enough naps or sleep, there is a possibility of more visible inflammation and swelling because your face might not get enough blood circulation. Your face is the most attractive feature of your body and keeps it exciting and appealing to potential suitors; our system keeps pumping more and more blood into it. Where do you think redness of lips and blush of cheeks come from? More blood flow to our skin than we think. Sleep aids in that process.
  2. A good nap can also help tone your muscles and keep your skin's thickness. And when we sleep, our body releases cytokines that are anti-inflammatory in nature. No matter how much time you have spent outside in the sun and facing pollution, a good nap can fix that.
  3. Nap also regulates your appetite and weight gain. In the next section, we will tackle the misconception that napping causes weight gain, but the reality might be slightly different.

To answer your question, yes, naps make you look younger if you take them regularly and in moderation.

Does napping cause weight gain?

It has been a debatable question. While scientific studies say it's all about weight management, common wisdom from centuries has this opinion that the habit of sleeping right after a heavy lunch can increase weight. So which one is right? Let's look at it a little closer.

A brisk walk is indeed better than an afternoon sleep when it comes to spending your energy. But maybe the midday nap is just a victim here rather than a culprit. We often tend to blame ourselves for not being productive and energetic enough, and the first casualty in that blame game is our sleep. Sleeping less or skipping your naps might not give your extra time in a day. In fact, the very act can make you sluggish and unfocused.

Sleep deprivation leads to less release of Leptin, a hormone responsible for giving our bellies the feeling of fullness. At the same time, less sleep means more Ghrelin is released into our system, making us hungry. No wonder you feel the urge to raid the fridge at 3 AM if you work late at night. The less you sleep, the more you crave, and the more you crave, the more you eat, leading to a weight increase.

close up of overweight woman measuring waist

Weight control is more about energy management. It will be in control if you balance your energy intake with your energy expenditure. But also, don't lie down right after a heavy meal. It might cause acid reflux. The more your body is suited for a sedentary lifestyle, the more you want to sleep. So it's good to have everything in moderation. You can still take a nap if you are willing to hit the gym or the park in the morning or evening.

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Is it better to nap or go to bed early?

That brings us to our classic dilemma - if we take a longer nap, it will disrupt our night's sleep. On the other hand, if we stay up late, we need to compensate for it with an afternoon siesta. Where does the balance lie?

There is no single answer to it. A good rule of thumb would be to keep a minimum of 7 hours of sleep schedule. Let's say you woke up at 7 AM, then be ready to hit the bed at least by 12 AM. But again, that depends on the sleep needs of an individual. People with sleep disorders like acute insomnia might take more than 30 minutes to sleep or wake up. If that happens to you often (say, 3 times a week), you might have sleep debts. So how to pay back this debt to the body? The best thing about this is you don't have to do anything. If you can and must do one thing, then that is the most challenging part of your life, i.e., doing nothing.

woman sleeping under white blanket looking at smartphone

When we go to bed, we go with a lot of baggage. We are thinking about past mistakes and planning the future when the best thing we can do is to lay still. Just live in the moment. Ignore notifications from your smartphone. Switch off your Smart TV. No Netflix, no Hulu. Just breathe in and breathe out. It is good if you do not have coffee in the late evening. Get a comfy pillow suitable for your head. If you are a good sleeper, it will take you less than 15 minutes to sleep in.

For those who are overworked, the ones who have to get up early and run for their offices or work deadlines, even they can try these. Also, there is no shame in taking a short nap in the afternoon, even during the busiest days. Don't think about dues tasks. If required, do a calming yoga session and lie down. If you feel you can oversleep, put an alarm for 20 minutes. Take a guilt-free nap, and you will wake up refreshed.

Do you find it difficult to fall asleep at night or do you often get enough sleep? What’s your idea of an ideal power nap? Tell us in the comments. If you liked this article, you might like these ones too.

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Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not difficult, you just need to listen to your body and mind and enrich yourself with the right information. For more such information on your sleep and home decor needs, feel free to explore more on our blogs.

Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.