By Samra Ashe, Press & Written Media Team
Students have to face a plethora of obstacles in the pursuit of productivity. However, one of the hurdles I’ve personally found most difficult to overcome is fatigue. Like a lot of students, I don’t often have the best sleep schedule, and unfortunately, the more work I have, the less sleep I get. It’s gotten to the point where no matter how many iced coffees I down, or how much cold water I splash on my face, nothing is able to penetrate the persistent cloud of fatigue that bogs down my every thought and movement.
This dilemma has only gotten worse with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being forced to work in my room the majority of the time — where the temptation of my soft, warm bed is only a few alluring feet away from my desk — has become a serious impediment to my productivity. Power naps offer both a practical and effective solution to this predicament, which is faced by many other students as well.
However, there is an art to the proper nap. It isn’t just a matter of conking out for three hours and then suddenly awakening groggy and unsure of what century you’re in. Power naps are meant to be short, quick scheduled bouts of shut-eye. Furthermore, the benefits are immense. According to Healthline, power naps can improve memory consolidation and aid the recovery of brain function, both of which are welcome benefits to any student struggling to get through schoolwork. Additionally, power naps are especially beneficial for sleep-deprived individuals as they can enhance alertness, work output and learning ability.
When should I nap?
There doesn’t need to be a specific time. For me, the sleepiness tends to ambush me in the early afternoon at around 1 to 3 p.m., but it isn’t always this way and it varies similarly for everyone. That being said, a general rule of thumb is to not nap after 4 p.m. if you’re aiming to go to bed at a reasonable time. Alternatively, individuals planning on having a late night should time their naps somewhere from 5 to 6 p.m.
How long should I nap?
The perfect length for a power nap has been much debated by researchers. However, it seems that the general consensus is 10 to 30 minutes. The reason the length of a power nap is so critical has to do with our sleep cycles.
The first light stages of the sleep cycle are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) or dreamless sleep, and they eventually progress into a deep stage of sleep called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Although this deeper stage of sleep is critical to our health, you want to avoid it at all costs when timing your power nap. This is because if you make your nap too long, progress into REM sleep, but wake up in the middle of it, you’ll wake up feeling disoriented, groggy and more often than not even worse than you were to begin with. It’s the reason why so many people wake up from naps feeling terrible; more often than not, you’ve napped for too long and disrupted your REM sleep cycle too early when you woke up. Thus, making your power naps short ensures that you don’t end up entering too deep into your sleep cycle, and that you wake up feeling refreshed and clear-headed.
Considering how short these naps must be, it’s important to make the most out of every second by creating as comfortable a nap space as possible. Find somewhere quiet and dark to sleep. Mute your notifications or other distracting alerts on your phone by utilizing phone settings such as Do Not Disturb or airplane mode. Personally, I like to play a podcast to help me slip into slumberland, but other experts recommend a white noise app. On the other hand, you could simply settle for silence. Finally, don’t forget to turn on an alarm so that you know when your nap is finished.
And the final component to a perfect power nap…coffee?
As counterintuitive as it sounds, the effects of caffeine don’t actually begin to take hold until twenty to thirty minutes after consumption. Therefore, the moment your nap is over, not only will you feel recharged from the extra sleep, but your newfound alertness will be further enhanced by a caffeine-charged energy boost!
A personal trial run
Now that it’s summertime, my sleep schedule is as off-kilter as ever. I’ve been pulling late nights to catch up on shows, read and, of course, scroll on my phone. This habit has been taking a toll on my energy throughout the day. Thus, I thought there was no better time than now to test the effectiveness of power naps.
Around 1 p.m. the other day, I began to feel drowsy and lethargic, unable to focus on any of the tasks I had set out to do. So, I shut my door, turned off the lights, switched my phone on Do Not Disturb and drifted off to sleep to my favorite podcast. I’m quick to fall asleep, and it felt like only seconds and not thirty minutes had passed when the unpleasant blare of my alarm pierced through my dream state, rudely signaling the end of my nap. I’ll admit that I struggled to convince myself to get out of bed, but once I finally got up and drank some water, that lingering drowsiness quickly evaporated. I felt alert, energized and much more ready to face the day than I had been a half hour ago.
Power naps may not be for everyone, but as someone who has struggled to stay energized and awake while trapped in my room over the past year, I hope this can help anyone else that shares the same issue.
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