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Power naps, or cat naps, have been found to help improve mood, memory, creativity and health, so they can be an excellent way to get more from your day.

With the hustle and bustle of daily life, downturns in the economy and loss of job stability there is more stress and tension in modern living than ever before. In the interest of a work life and family life balance we all need to find ways to release our tension to relax for the benefit of our friends, family and colleagues.

Todays society often stereotype napping as something that grandmas do and many don’t see the benefits of napping that were so clear to our ancestors. Our natural waking cycle has in built sleep periods to allow us to get the best from mind and body and the benefits have been rediscovered recently.

Napping at work has seen a performance increase of over 30% in staff that nap versus those that don’t, with some employers placing so much value on the nap/siesta they have allocated space for napping. Resultrers from a survey by the National Sleep Foundation show that around 30% of employees are permitted to sleep at work. Even if your employer doesn’t allow napping at work you can still take a power nap in your car during your lunchbreak.

Publicity surrounds the benefits of napping on long drives and we all know the phrase, ‘drowsy drivers die’. When napping on the road it is optimal to find the right place, turn off the motor, put the hand brake on and lock the doors to ensure your safety and help in preparation for your napping relaxation.

Whether your nap is to help with a double shift at work or to revive you whilst driving, scientists have proven there are methods and techniques that improve nap quality and allow you to get the most out of what would seem to be just a very little sleep.

When to take a nap

Research has shown the most effective and restorative time to take a nap is midday, which is when the traditional siesta is taken. Most often the nap is best taken after lunch to follow the circadian rhythms of the body (your body natural sleep regulation cycle), when you are most likely to fall asleep naturally. It also corresponds with the process of digestion. Don’t take a nap later than 4pm as this may reduce your sleep quality at night.

Your napping routine should have a 5 to 10 minute relaxation phase that allows the body and mind to enter a suitable phase ready to sleep. In this phase turn off phones, email and instant messenger alerts and remove any form of audible distraction that will prevent you from gaining the full benefit of your nap.

If you are a stay-at home mum you should take your nap when you child is napping to help stave off the effects of sleep deprivation. You can nap at home, at work or even in your car (providing you’re not driving!).

How long should a nap take?

Napping for 15 to 20 minutes is optimal. Naps that go over 30-40 minutes are no longer restorative as you enter deep sleep and can suffer from sleep inertia, which leaves you feeling groggy and drowsy and most often worse off than not napping at all.

Use an alarm clock to set the boundaries for the nap. Get up as soon as the alarm goes off to ensure the benefit of the sleep and if you are likely to be a snooze button abuser, place the alarm on the other side of the room.

Tips for taking a quality nap

Find a comfortable position to take your nap, whether that be a chair, couch, floor or bed. Preferably lie down as it takers 50% longer to fall asleep sitting upright.

The space for your nap needs to be comfortable and free from interruptions to allow you to gain the most from your nap. As you would prepare for meditation, concentrate on your breathing - focus on slowing it down and taking deeper better quality breaths. Feel each part of your body relax as you take each breath, releasing the stress of the day.

Using white noise can help you fall asleep during the day when there are lots of noise sources. Putting a fan on will produce rhythmic sounds that can help.

Napping is a skill and there are tools that can assist you; relaxation music can assist you to shift the focus from the goings on of the day. Ensure the CD is relaxing and soothing and in no way distracting. Don’t use a CD where the voice, sounds or music annoys you as it will only defeat the purpose.

It is important for the mind to know that the nap has boundaries and the use of the alarm clock will assist with that as well as creating a physical link to the emotional relaxation process.

If you feel you need that extra caffeine boost in the afternoon, combine it with your nap for the best effects. Caffeine takes time to take effect in the system so if you include it in your pre nap relaxation routine the caffeine will give you that extra boost without a negative impact on nap quality or effectiveness.

Darken your napping space or use eye shades. The reduction in light prepares the mind and body to relax and reduces the visual distractions on and around your space.

Remove all distraction; that includes noise, mobile phones, people etc. Turn off your phone, your PC, Pager and put the do not disturb sign on the door. Mums, nap with your kids to remove that distraction and make sure visitors know when nap time is.

Napping too close to bed time can affect the quality of your restorative night sleep patterns. It is important remember your nap is a restorative sleep process and try to nap within the process of the natural rhythms of the body. The inbuilt sleepy window is early to mid afternoon.

Get up as soon as the alarm goes off and get into bright light to make you feel more awake. Running on the spot or skipping for a moment will also help.

Never feel guilty for taking your nap; enjoy it. Relish in the benefits a nap provides you. Take advantage of that extra edge. Napping is proven to increase brain power and accuracy, improve perception and motor skills, as well as enhancing the mood and memory. The body benefits from napping too; research shows that napping not only reduces stress, it lowers the risk of heart attack and excessive weight gain.

Napping leads to a smarter happier and healthier you.