The ABC's of Power Napping
I power nap every day. I have been for almost two decades. The benefits of power napping are hard to exaggerate. Energy-wise, I'm usually at the top of my game in the morning, up until around noon. After that, primetime is over for me. Getting a power nap in somewhere between 13.00 and 14.30 reboots all my systems and gets me back on track. And that's just the performance aspect of things. The benefits for your physical and mental health are also fantastic.
Most people seem to understand this, so I won't go into a much more detailed argument about why you should power nap. Instead, I want to talk about how you should power nap, because here there seems to be much confusion. Since I'm such an avid power napper, people tell me all the time that they're jealous of my ability to power nap. People seem to think that it is some kind of talent involved, but it's actually a technique. A technique that anyone can learn. And I'm going to teach you this technique right now. If you follow these steps and commit to a daily routine, I promise you it will change your life. Both personally and professionally. Ready? Here we go.
Before we start, let's talk about time. The most common argument I hear why people don't power nap is that they don't have time. This is simply not true. A beginner power napper should set aside 15-20 minutes for a powernap. A pro powernapper can do anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. This is time that you easily make up for in spades by the increased productivity you get for the rest of the day, so lack of time is a false argument. Napping for more than 20 minutes is not something I would recommend as it will only make your mind foggy. Besides, if you need to sleep more than 20 minutes, you haven't gotten enough sleep the night before and should work on that problem first.
Power napping technique comes down to three concrete steps, each addressing one form of tension that stops you from falling asleep.
A. Be a Proud Power Napper
The first form of tension is a cultural one. We wonder what people will think if they find us sleeping behind the closed door of our office, or worse, sleeping on a couch in an open office landscape. We culturally view people who kick their shoes of and snooze on the office couch as slackers, we kick people out for sleeping in restaurants and we sometimes associate people sleeping on a park bench with different kinds of social failure. This is a cultural thing. In Japan, public napping is a sign of diligence – this is someone who must be working hard! The cultural tension is perhaps the hardest nut to crack, but I've been hard at work at it for 20 years, and people learn to respect this about you, given that they get to experience the benefits of your afternoon power boost. Make sure you give as much value as you can to any sceptics in your office once that boost kicks in and make sure they understand the connection to your recent recharge. With the net benefit for your employer or client being positive, you have every reason to be proud of your power napping. It takes practice. Just like taking cold showers (something that I also highly recommend, but let's save that for a different article), it's hard or even painful the first time but becomes easier and easier as you condition your mind to see this as the new normal. Nowadays I sleep in parks, in taxis, on subways, in lobbys before client meetings, in restaurants (beware, this is hard to do without a friend or partner vouching for you), or even in actual meetings "I'll just take five on the floor folks to raise the quality of my participation, please continue while I lay down on the floor here". You need to practice this. Do it.
B. Set a Timer
The second form of tension is a temporal one. There is temporal stress associated with sleeping. Do I really have time for this? How long will I sleep for? How long do I need to sleep? The remedy for this is to block off a certain amount of time, I would recommend starting with 15 minutes, that is yours and yours alone. You don't have to do anything at all during these 15 minutes. Not even sleep. What? Not even sleep? Let me get back to that in step C. Setting a timer is optional for power napping ninjas, depending on the conditions. But for beginner and intermediate power nappers this is crucial.
C. Realize That You Don't Have to Fall Asleep to Become Rested
The third and most crucial form of tension is one of confidence. If the most common objection I hear is that people don't have time, the second most common is that people are not able to fall asleep fast enough or at all during the day. But the beauty is that you don't have to fall asleep for power napping to work. This insight is pure magic once you get it. If you just lay down for 15 minutes on the floor and rest – don't even try to fall asleep – you will still feel much more fresh and energetic when you stand up again. Even if you didn't fall asleep. The entire argument of you not power napping because you can't fall asleep is then void, right? As a side benefit, not trying to sleep is the best way to actually fall asleep, but you should view that as pure bonus if it happens.
That's it folks. Now, drop your excuses and go try this. Let me know in the comments how it worked for you.
* Bonus trick for you caffeine junkies out there. Down an espresso just before your nap. As crazy as this sounds it takes 20 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, sending you into orbit just as you wake up. You'll be like an F14 taking off from an aircraft carrier. Trust me.