Everyone naps, but not everyone naps well
. In the eternal quest for the
perfect nap, researchers, scientists, and journalists explore everything
from the problem of grogginess to productivity-boosting power naps to
the ability to learn while asleep. Here's what you should know before
you decide to doze.
- Learn While You Dream The New York
Times' Tara Parker-Pope explains
that if you go to bed frustrated by a problem, your brain will keep at
work while you sleep. "Struggling with a task might be the trigger that
prompts the sleeping brain to focus on the subject and work on getting
better," she writes. "Dreams don’t necessarily have to make sense or be
obvious to the awake mind in order to have a learning benefit."
- How to Sit Economist Austin Frakt examines a
study. The further you lean back the better. Lying down is best. Leaning
forward is the least beneficial but better than not napping at all. He
adds, "The most important consideration for me is neck alignment.
Leaning my head back may find a stable surface for it, but it can
irritate my neck. Best results seem to occur with folded arms and head
slightly slumped forward."
- Why Naps Make You Smarter
Mental Floss' Ranson Riggs writes, "It all
happens in the hippocampus, which is a part of our brain which
temporarily stores 'fact-based memories.' 'It's as though the email
inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out
those fact emails, you’re not going to receive any more mail. It’s just
going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder,' Dr
Matthew Walker, a Berkeley psychologist said. Even more fascinating, the
study found that small children who are learning to construct words
into sentences are unlikely to remember their lessons unless they sleep
- ...Unless They Make You Groggy The
Washington Post's Ezra Klein doesn't see a
net benefit. "When I nap, there's at least a 50-50 chance that I'll wake
up feeling groggy and awful. Whatever cognitive benefits naps offer,
they're vastly outweighed by the period of time in which I'm useless and
unhappy and desperate to go back to sleep."
- How Long To Nap?
Ten minutes, Eric Barker reads from a
scientific study. Five-minute naps are useless, thirty-minute naps are
useful but cause "a period of impaired alertness and performance
immediately after napping, indicative of sleep inertia." The
twenty-minute nap is good too, although not significantly more effective
than the ten-minute one.
- ...Don't Nap Too Long Economist Austin Frakt says to those who
complain that naps are counter-productive, "They are more than likely
too long. For most people optimal nap length is less than 30 minutes
(for me it is 20). The trick is to enter the first few lighter stages of
sleep and then exit before experiencing the deeper ones. Going deep
risks sleep inertia, that horrible, groggy feeling."
90-Minute Naps Make You Smarter So concludes ArsTechnica's Casey Johnston from a study that
shows "participants who were able to take naps long enough for dreams to
occur were able to perform a previously learned task more quickly than
others who had had to stay awake."
- You Should Nap at Work
The Atlantic's Eleanor Smith makes the case.
"Depending on their length, naps are said to boost productivity, creativity,
and problem-solving abilities -- not to mention enhance weight loss,
reduce stress, and lower the risk of heart
disease. Naps are also said to be more effective than drinking
caffeine for stimulating
alertness. And yet, sleeping during the workday, for the most part,
remains a taboo." But allowing employees to nap would make them more
productive and benefit the company. Here's more insight on napping at
- ...Fixing The Fluorescent Light Problem Lifehacker
reader Mitondsolves suggests,
"Need a nap but it is too bright in the office? Get an old pair of
sunglasses and put black tape behind the lenses. Works well on an
airplane instead of those odd looking eyeshades."
- ...How To
Sneak It Mental Floss' Miss Cellania gives 7 tips for
the clandestine office nap. Number three gives a special iPhone app that
makes the noises that would normally come from a productive,
non-sleeping office worker: Pencil sharpeners, tapping keyboards, etc.
If You're Slow to Fall Asleep? Lifehacker's Daniel Tenner jumps that
hurdle to napping. "Napping is not sleeping. To get the benefit of a
refreshing power nap, you don't need to fall asleep. It's enough to
relax yourself and let your thoughts drift off, even while remaining
mostly awake. If you can do this properly (it does take some practice),
you can power nap even if you find it impossible to fall asleep
quickly." Tenner explains how to develop this skill.
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