How to Get Ahead By Resting Up

Sep 4, 2013

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What do Salvador Dali, John F. Kennedy and Thomas Edison have in common? Yes, they’re all geniuses - and it turns out, they were also dedicated to the fine art of napping.

A power nap usually lasts between 20-30 minutes (right before your body enters its deep sleep mode) and is designed to restore mental alertness. We all know what happens when we burn the candle at both ends -- and for freelancers working on overlapping client deliverables or waiting for that blast of inspiration that seems to hit only after midnight, rest during the day becomes crucial.

Napping can increase alertness, improve learning and working memory, prevent burnout, and even heighten your senses and creativity.

Luckily for us, we control our own schedules. So shouldn’t we tailor our rest habits so they complement who we are and how we work best?

Fortunately the world of rest and productivity isn’t as black and white as it may seem. Here are some tips for effective power-napping:

Find a Good Place to Nap

Turn off your phone and find a place away from any other potential distractions. If background noise is unavoidable and distracting, playing relaxing music may help. If you're grabbing a few minutes during daylight hours and bright light disturbs you, wear sunglasses or use an eye mask to simulate darkness.

Caffeinate Before You Nap

This may sound counterintuitive since caffeine is a stimulant, but consuming 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent of two 6oz cups or an average caffeine supplement) right before a 20-minute nap will not only improve your performance, but it'll also help you feel less drowsy once you wake up. This is because it can take up to 45 minutes to be absorbed in the body.

Skip the caffeine if you're trying to quit or if it's late in the afternoon; you'll have a hard time falling asleep later.

Set Your Alarm

When you're close to finishing your coffee (or green tea, energy shot, etc), you should set your alarm to go off in about twenty-five minutes. Immediately after consuming the caffeine, close your eyes and relax. If you're one of those people who has a "snooze button” habit, put your alarm across the room so that you have to get up to turn it off.

Nap Even If You Can’t

Even if you can't sleep, close your eyes and meditate. You might not be used to napping, but if you incorporate it into a daily routine (taking a nap every day after lunch, for example) you can "train" your body to expect a nap during that time and you'll have an easier time falling asleep.

Get up Right Away

Sleeping for any longer than 20 minutes will be counterproductive. Sleeping more than 30 minutes can lead to sleep inertia, making you feel sluggish and more tired than ever.

Follow up your nap with physical activity; a few jumping jacks or some light stretching should do the trick. Splashing some water on your face and exposing yourself to bright light (e.g. sunlight) can also help you feel more awake as well.