The concept of the Power Nap has been kicking around for quite a while.  Anyone who’s felt the benefits of a refreshing nap can testify to how energizing it can be.   But a nap can also leave you feeling groggy and disoriented.  How can we hit that sweet spot between resting and re-energizing?

Here’s a time-based metric to help you set your schedule for the perfect power nap:

10 – 20 minutes:  the shorter period limits you to the lighter (non-rapid eye movement) stages of sleep when theta waves predominate.  Not only do you get a boost in energy and alertness, it’s easy to wake up and get back into the groove of your day.

30 minutes:  a deeper stage of sleep begins after 20 minutes, with deep, slow delta waves starting to occur.  Unfortunately, it can take up to a half-hour to shake off the inertia and grogginess that occurs if you have to wake up at this stage.

60 minutes:  if you need a boost in your memory for facts, faces and names, this is the perfect nap for you.  It may be a little hard to wake up, but the deeper level of rest is usually worth it!

90 minutes:  by this stage, you’re experiencing alternating levels of lighter and deeper sleep (including rapid eye movement sleep, which is linked to dreaming).  This longer naptime not only improves your procedural memory, it enhances creativity and emotional resilience.

The 10 – 20 minute nap is a great option, if you can fit it into your working day, and the 60 minute nap is absolutely great for teenagers and students.  But some of us are not “natural nappers” or just don’t have a schedule that allows us to nap.  That’s when a really good night’s sleep is truly essential.

A note on sleeping position: this is important, even for the shortest of catnaps!  You may fall asleep on your belly with your head turned to the side, or while seated in a chair with your head falling down and over to your shoulder.  This is not just uncomfortable – it is damaging to your nervous system.

Prolonged rotation of the head creates a tugging, twisting pressure on your spinal cord that is destructive to your health and your future.  So if you need a nap, please lie down on your back or side with your head supported on a pillow, and get comfortable!

Here’s an extra tip on head position: if you typically poke your head forward above the chest, this also puts a constant pressure on your spinal cord.   Have a friend check the centerline of your ear relative to your shoulder; this is most obvious when you are looking at a computer monitor.  If your head is an inch forward of the center of your shoulder, please see your friendly local chiropractor for remedial care and postural re-training!

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