We know that the gold standard of naps is when our body is in the nap zone, which for many of us is between 1 and 3 PM. A 90-minute nap during the nap zone produces the most balanced distribution of stage 2, slow wave sleep, and REM.
But for a lot of us, 90 minutes of napping in the middle of the day isn’t very realistic. Even an hour a day is often unattainable. But if you want to tap into your napping superpower, then you need to discover what is realistic and come up with a nap prescription that works for you.
Today, we’ll help you sort through this by looking at some nap case studies.
Let’s start with Maria. Maria works the day shift as a customer service rep in a call center. She wakes up around 7:30 every morning. Three nights a week, she takes on a seven-to-midnight waitress shift. On those nights, she gets less than 6 hours of sleep. Maria’s sleep schedule is starting to harm her relationships, her performance at work, and her health.
So, how can naps help Maria? Maria needs stamina to keep going through her day job and her physically demanding waitress gig. Her body may not be getting enough slow wave sleep.
Her nap prescription: a 45-minute nap every day after work. The 17 minutes of stage 2 will give Maria the extra boost of energy that she needs. The extra slow wave sleep contained in the afternoon nap will heal her sore waitress calves and relieve the extra sleep pressure she has.
Now let’s talk about James. James is a 50-year-old semi-retired electronics engineer and triathlete who wakes up every morning at 5 AM. His schedule varies according to the sport he’s training for that day. On swim days, he works out in the pool for about an hour. On bike days, he rides for two or three hours. And on run days, he runs for two or three hours.
James needs two things from his nap: an energy boost and a restorative tonic for his muscles. His nap prescription? A 20-minute power nap on swim days and a 45- to 60-minute nap after bike rides and runs. The power nap is all stage 2 and is ideal for stamina, motor performance, and alertness. The longer naps provide slow wave sleep, which helps repair muscle tissue after his workouts.
Both Maria and James want different things from their naps. And they both can get them by being strategic about when they nap and for how long. Now obviously, you’re also different, but you should be able to take what you’ve learned from this course and create a nap plan that works for you.
If you’re still not sure, though, here’s a generic nap plan to start putting some of this into practice.
Generic Nap Plan: Three power naps and one super nap every week. On weekdays, maybe Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, find 20 minutes to sneak in a power nap, ideally at a convenient time like during your lunch break.
Then, on Saturday or Sunday, during the nap zone, take that 90-minute super nap. Give it a try and see what comes. If you get good at napping and combine naps with overall healthy sleep habits, a myriad of benefits could come.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to integrate a napping discipline into your regular routine.
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