The power of napping

I have personally had the opinion for years that napping was an unproductive exercise that would only prevent me from getting everything done on my todo list. Instead I spent the second half of my day fighting against the heavy eyes and forcing myself not to give in to the temptation of a warm, cozy nap.

However, I have found taking a nap when I experience a lull in energy to be the perfect way to split my day into two parts, both with high levels of productivity rather than one long session of decreasing productivity as I go from morning to evening. The goal is to take a 10-60 minute post-lunch nap in the afternoon and wake up feeling as if you have a similar level of productivity and creativeness as you experience each morning when you first wake up.

I have been reading Mark Sisson's latest book which covers mostly ancestral nutrition and diet habits but also had a really interesting section explaining how historians and anthropologists have observed humans to actually have biphasic sleeping patterns; sleeping for one long phase at night and a shorter phase in the afternoon. This dynamic was believed to be the norm in pre-historic times, where sleep would likely be interrupted to tend to a fire, care for infants, or keep a watch for danger.

This was the norm all the way up until the Industrial Revolution which then shifted society's attitude towards napping, enabling us to work longer shifts in factories during the day. However, this isn't natural for humans and extensive research among NASA astronauts and elite athletes confirms that taking a 20 minute nap can improve alertness, productivity, concentration, memory, mood, metabolic functioning and physical performance.

How to optimise your napping

  1. Regulate your circadian rhythm with natural light - The first step begins way before you even go to take a nap. By standing outside in the morning, you are jumpstarting your circadian rhythm by sending a strong signal to your body that day time has officially started.

  2. Time your nap - This is based on your hormonal fluctuation and it turns out that your cortisol is going to experience a natural dip approximately five to seven hours after you have woken up. It isn't always a complete necessity but you will find it much easier to doze off if you hit between that 5-7 hour time range.

  3. Using sound - If you're like me, you will have a million things rushing through your mind by the time your afternoon nap rolls around. I have found pink noise to help distract my brain from all the stress in the day. You can simply find loads of free videos on YouTube of pink noise which acts as a sort of background blur.

  4. Reboot upon wakeup - I personally love to splash cold water on the face or take a cold shower, and then get some natural light on me whilst I take a 5-10 minute walk or do some quick exercises.