What can you do in 26 minutes to be more alert, make better decisions, and increase your performance? Hint: “It’s free, it’s nontoxic, and it has no dangerous effects,” say the authors of Take a Nap! Change Your Life (Workman Publishing Company, 2006). The answer is in that title: Take a nap!
- How long do you have to nap?
- Six minutes will enhance memory, 10–15 minutes can improve focus and productivity.
- The NASA nap (26 minutes) is the optimal time for a performance enhancement of 34 percent and an overall alertness increase of 54 percent.
- Extend that nap into the 40–60 minute range, and you will likely be groggy upon awakening as you didn’t finish the sleep cycle. Not good if you are already grumpy.
- 90 minutes of napping can give you a boost of creativity as you finish a cycle. 90 minutes can also top off the sleep you missed the night before.
- Plan to nap between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. so as to fit the circadian rhythm of most folks. Want everyone to be fresh at your evening campfire? Give them a program break, and schedule naps from 1:00–3:00 at the next campout or camporee.
- Make sure you have a safe area and set-up. Make your room darker or cover your eyes (using two pirate patches, an eye mask, or an ostrich pillow). Lie down instead of sitting up. Good news for hammock campers: Hammocks are the best place to nap as the gentle swaying will help you go to sleep.
- Set a timer. Remember, 26 minutes is optimal.
- Need a super boost for your afternoon? Drink a cup of coffee BEFORE you lie down. Combining caffeinated coffee and a nap will make you feel invincible. (Of course, this is not recommended for youth; the target audience for this tip is the Scoutmaster.)
- Resist comfort foods and lose some excess weight.
- Lower your risk of cardiac disorders. Just knowing your nap is coming may lower your blood pressure!
- Reduce the risk of diabetes by lowering insulin and cortisol levels.
- Reduce stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol and releasing growth hormones.
- Combat driving fatigue on a long trip with an emergency nap.