Power Nap


The Three R's: Rest, Relaxation, and Recovery

Work is great. It gives us an opportunity to express ourselves, contribute to life, and develop our talents. Although most of us have to work for a living, we also have to rest for living. You see, work and relaxation go together. For unless we refreshen our mind and body during the day, we will drain our energy, lose focus, and experience a drop in productivity.

In 1986 Robert Fulghum told us "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Number twelve on his list of things he learned in kindergarten was "Take a nap every afternoon." Many experts agree that is sound advice.

For example, Max Hirshkowitz, the Director of the Sleep Center at Houston's Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center says, "We're biologically programmed to take a nap in midafternoon. It's the Industrial Revolution that separated us from siesta, because it was too expensive to shut down big machines in the middle of the day and turn them back on."

Because of our natural body rhythms, our productivity precipitously plummets about three in the afternoon. What's more, modern workers find themselves laden with stress. And stress drains them of energy, all the more reason to follow the kindergarten practice of taking an afternoon nap.

Businesses are slowly realizing that an afternoon "Power Nap" doesn't mean employees are sleeping on the job, but that they are recharging their mind, rejuvenating their body, and restoring their productivity. (The phrase "Power Nap" was coined by Cornell University professor, James Maas and it usually refers to afternoon naps that are sanctioned by employers.)

But long before the arrival of Power Naps, many famous people were already doing what comes naturally. For instance, Winston Churchill said, "You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do. Don't think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That's a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will accomplish more. You get two days in one - well, at least one and a half, I'm sure. When the war started, I had to sleep during the day because that was the only way I could cope with my responsibilities."

Other famous nappers include John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Bill Clinton, who took a 30-minute nap at 3 pm. Still others include Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, John D. Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Johannes Brahms, Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

A nap is the pause that refreshes. But naps do more than revitalize us, for they also improve our sleep at night and help offset sleep lost because of business trips and late night meetings. Often, it is when we nap that fresh ideas, new insights, and solutions percolate in our mind and rise to the surface. This explains why Mason Cooley (1927 ~ 2002) said, "When you can't figure out what to do, it's time for a nap."

An important benefit of napping that is rarely, if at all, mentioned is that because of the stress release, we get along better with coworkers, team members, supervisors and subordinates. Also, according to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (http://www.salk.edu/index.php), the value of naps is undisputed. For when we take one in the afternoon, our brain activity remains high throughout the day. But if we fail to take a nap, brain activity declines.

Well, then, if we want to take a power nap, how long should it be and at what time should we take it? I'll start with the length of time. Most power nappers doze for 20 ~ 40 minutes, some up to one hour. But anything over an hour is likely to be counterproductive as one would wake up feeling groggy, rather than refreshed. It would be best to experiment and see what works for you. Nap on a bed, cot, or couch for maximum effectiveness (that is, to reach a deeper stage of relaxation or sleep).

As I mentioned earlier, the average person is most in need of a nap at roughly 3 pm. But for a more accurate way to find out how long to nap, we can rely on the formula of a 20-year sleep researcher and neurologist at the University of Ottawa. His name is Roger Broughton and he also believes that humans are born to nap. His formula is to take a 20-minute nap, 12 hours after the midpoint of the previous night's sleep. So, if you sleep for eight hours and go to sleep at 11 pm, the midpoint would be 3 am, and you would then take a nap at 3 pm the following day.

Besides the 20 ~ 40 minute Power Nap, there are other terms to describe naps, such as the following.

One-second nap: It is said that Thomas Edison could switch from daydreaming about a problem to a 1-second nap in which he received a revelation or solution to a problem.

Nano-nap: 30 seconds ~ 2 minutes.

Micro-nap: 2 ~ 5 minutes. This is the type of nap that Salvador Dali is said to have taken.

Mini-nap: 5 ~ 10 minutes. John F. Kennedy trained himself to take many mini-naps throughout the day.

Macro-nap: 10 ~ 15 minutes.

Let's say that you're an overworked executive or sales rep in control of your time and would like to insert a power nap in your busy schedule. Perhaps you can set aside no more than 20 minutes. The question is, when it is time to take your nap, how do you quickly turn off your frazzled nerves and calmly settle down? Won't it be time to wake up when you're just starting to relax?

Well, leave it to science and technology to come up with a solution. The answer lies in a software program that you can install in your laptop. The name of the program is Pzizz and it creates "Power Naps" of 10 ~ 60 minutes. Just plug in and put on your stereo headset, click on the Pzizz Play Button and be prepared to be lulled into a deep state of relaxation.

Your Pzizz Power Nap consists of the pleasant sounds of chimes, bells, birds, the pounding surf, music, hypnotic suggestions, and binaural beats. What are binaural beats? Well, they sound like humming in the background and they gently nudge your brain, inducing it to lower its frequency (lower frequencies are associated with relaxation and higher frequencies with alertness).

Pzizz offers all the benefits of power napping without the need to study anything. Just download, install, play, listen, relax, and enjoy! You won't need an alarm clock either because it will wake you up. It will also help you become progressively more skillful at taking quick catnaps.

Although most experts recommend using a dark room for your power nap, that isn't needed with Pzizz. It works its magic even in bright light. But what makes the program especially unique is that every time you play it, it is different. Another pleasant surprise is the price. It's just $30. What if you don't have a computer? They also make an iPod-like version for $147. If you visit their web site, you'll be able to download a free 15-minute sample nap (they call it their "15 minute energizer soundtrack"). Their web site is http://www.pzizz.com

For Professor Maas book, see: POWER SLEEP, The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance by James B. Maas (Author), Megan L. Wherry (Contributor), David J. Axelrod (Author), Barbara R. Hogan (Author), Jennifer Bloomin (Author), Collins, 1999.

And for more resources on the web, see:
http://www.uoguelph.ca/~ksomers/sleepread.html and http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/newarc.html.

And what about me? Well, I usually take a two-hour nap, from 1 ~ 4 pm. Just kidding! That's was a quote by Yogi Berra. But I do take a nap, usually at 3 pm. I like a 40-minute nap in bed, hooked up to my laptop and plugged into Pzizz. Whoops, it's time for my nap. Sweet dreams.

© Chuck Gallozzi
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