Thursday, January 21, 2010

Power Napping

I woke up Wednesday morning about 3 AM and started sneezing for about 2 hours straight.  My condition didn't improve throughout the day Wednesday and by midday, I developed a horrible headache.  The sneezing stopped on Thursday but the headache persisted.  The only thing that seemed to save me the past 2 days has been Power Naps.  I love 'em.  I can't get through most days without at least one.

It started when I was in high school.  I just stopped sleeping like normal people.  I would routinely get less than 3-4 hours a sleep a night.  In order to repay sleep debt, I started taking a nap at some point in the day.  At first, I tried napping for 1-2 hours and I typically woke up feeling more tired than when I fell asleep.  I really didn't think to research the topic because I didn't think that anyone else did it, plus there was no internets back then.  That is until I read a story about Thomas A. Edison.  The story mentioned that to increase productivity, he rarely slept, instead he took power naps.  He would sit in a chair in his lab and hold a spoon in hand.  He would dangle his arm, holding the spoon, over the arm of the chair over a metal plate.  When he would get into a deep sleep, he would involuntarily drop the spoon, which would hit the plate, making a loud enough noise to wake him up.  He would then resume working, feeling refreshed.

Many years later, I researched more on power naps and found that an effective nap should be no more than 30 minutes long.  Sleep longer than 30 minutes puts you into a deeper level of sleep, making it more difficult to wake up. 

Here are some of the things that I do to take effective power naps:
  1. Prepare for the nap.  I know when I usually need a nap (mid-morning or mid-afternoon).  When I start feeling sleepy, I try to slow my pace down, nothing which would increase my heart rate, etc.  I like to take about 10 minutes of diminished activity before I am ready.
  2. Set an alarm.  I use my cell phone which a great alarm clock built into it.  Set the alarm for 15-30 minutes from the time you are ready.
  3. Find a nice spot.  I work from home so during the day, quiet, comfortable spots are bountiful.  I pick the big sofa next to my desk.  But if you can't do this, find someplace away from the hustle and noise. 
  4. Cover your eyes.  I usually cover my eyes with the arm of sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt.  It serves three purposes, it covers my eyes providing near perfect darkness, it covers my ears blocking out some background noise, and it is also a pretty nice pillow.  You may look silly, but it is effective.
  5. Clear your head and sleep.  Don't think about you are going to do when you wake up.  Don't think about the stuff you did before you laid down.  Think of something calming and sleep.
  6. Wake up.  Don't hit the snooze button, don't lounge.  Jump up and get back to work.
Well, that's what I do. It may not work for everyone, but I firmly believe it helps me.  

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