Staring at the Back of Our Eyes
Written by Holden Rethwill
Naps can be an amazing thing. We’ve all had those days where it just seems to drag on forever. The afternoon rolls around and we’re beginning to flirt with the backs of our eyelids. Every second that goes by is a constant struggle to keep them from closing. Many people turn to coffee or expensive (health and pocket-wise) energy drinks at this time, but one of the most productive methods is a simple nap.
In the all-too sleep deprived world we live in, naps are modern day gold. Not all of us have the opportunity to take them, but if you do, the benefits can be amazing. The Mayo Clinic states that a solid nap can lead to reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved performance and mood are just a few benefits that come with a quick snooze.
Just last week I was having a conversation about nap times and how long we should close our eyes for. It got me thinking that many people don’t know how long they should partake!
Sleeping passes us through five stages that recur cyclically and take about 90 minutes to get through. A cat-nap will usually push us through the first two. Stage-1, which I like to call the twitch stage, lasts about 5-10 minutes and we are lightly drifting off, easily awakened. Stage-2 we drift further and further from consciousness, lasting about twenty minutes. Any further than this and we are pushed into the deeper sleep stages.
There are three types of naps we all should know about:
- The Power Nap usually lasts about 15 minutes and will get you a decent amount of stage-2 sleep.
- The Solid Snooze nap that lasts around 30 minutes and will provide you with plenty of stage-2 sleep.
- The Full Refresher usually lasting around 90 minutes and will allow you to get through a full sleep cycle.
Which one of these is right for me?
Well, if you also live in the busy, on-the-go world that the rest of us live in, very rarely is the 90-minute option available. That leaves you with a power nap or a solid snooze. My personal go-to is the quick power nap; I feel so much more refreshed when I open my eyes back up than I do if I nap longer than twenty minutes. However, be careful not to nap much longer than 20-30 minutes if this is what you’re going for. The reasoning behind this is because if you nap longer than around thirty minutes you will start to move from that second stage of sleep into a deeper sleep stage that is harder to get out of. When you do, it can actually leave you feeling more tired and groggy than when you originally started.
Ok, but how effective can a nap actually be?
If you’re still skeptical about the benefits a nap can yield, take me as a personal testament to the effects that a nap can have on your performance:
Living on the east side of Washington, the highways roll through a LOT of wheat fields and farms. Combine this with a lengthy drive and a poor night of sleep, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Last year I found myself in this perfect storm. Driving home I began to find myself fighting the temptation to close my eyes. The longer I drove the harder it became. Coffee, loud music, rolling the windows down – none of it would help. Before I knew it my eyes closed in the left lane for what seemed like two seconds, and opened back up in the right. Long before this, it was time to take a nap, but I had fought it off for so long I almost crashed. I pulled off at the nearest exit, set my alarm for twenty minutes, and closed my eyes. When I woke back up I felt like a new person. I was alert and able to finish my drive with no further problems.
Now this is an extreme example of the effects a nap can have, but translate this to working on a long project, or even a blog post (I may or may not have napped mid-way through this) and you’ve got a similar situation. Taking 15-30 minutes to shut your mind off and reboot the system rather than push through sleepiness can be an extremely beneficial strategy that helps you increase productivity and performance during your day.
Are you a snoozer? If so, what kind of nap works for you? If not, give one a shot and let me know, I’d love to hear about it!
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Napping: Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Adults.”MayoClinic.org. Mayo Clinic, 3 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319?pg=1>.
- Webber, Rebecca. “The 3 Kinds Of Naps Everybody Needs To Know About.”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/12/when-to-nap_n_6096212.html>.