Power nap: why a quick doze is worth­while

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Our hectic lives hardly allow time for a power nap. Yet it would be of great benefit to body and soul.

The origin of the power nap

Salvador Dali is said to have been a master of the art of power-napping. He used to sit in an armchair, resting his arms on the sides. In one hand he held a spoon. And then he dropped off. Once the spoon had clattered to the floor – as his muscles relaxed – the nap was over.

Power naps last for 30 minutes maximum

Of course, you can also lie down to take a power nap and set an alarm clock. The important thing is to limit the time to a maximum of 20-30 minutes. «This helps to avoid physical inertia and lengthy start-up periods after waking up,» says Daniel Brunner from the Hirslanden Centre for Sleep Medicine. He claims even a ten- to twenty-minute nap is enough to feel refreshed.

Why not lay your head on the desk in the office, retire to the empty meeting or medical room, or doze off briefly in a parked car?

Short power nap more beneficial than coffee?

Whether it’s worth finding time to revive at some point in the day is, for sleep experts, unquestionable. Depending on how much pressure we are under, mental and physical performance starts to decline after 2 to 4 hours. Often there’s only enough time in our stressful day for a coffee or a little exercise in the fresh air. But a short break to sleep or at least lie down would be the ideal option, as this regenerates the whole body.

Just a ten- to twenty-minute power nap is sufficient to feel revived.

However, a lunchtime nap is not particularly approved of in our latitudes – in contrast to the siesta-taking countries in the south of Europe or in Asia. Only a few Swiss companies currently offer rest spaces. But Daniel Brunner is appealing to people to shed their inhibitions: why not lay your head on the desk in the office, retire to the empty meeting or medical room, or doze off briefly in a parked car?

A power nap has many benefits

  • Creates distance to our everyday duties and woes
  • Reduces the risk of overload and exhaustion
  • Improves memory and learning ability
  • Lowers the pulse and breathing rate and reduces stress hormones. This all has an effect on the health of the cardiovascular system
  • Regenerates muscles and sensory organs
  • Soothes musculoskeletal complaints and chronic conditions

Recognise the need for rest and schedule breaks

However: «Taking a break at lunchtime to relax should be a pleasure and not a chore», says Daniel Brunner. The important thing, he says, is to give in to the need to relax – regardless of whether you can fall asleep or not. Benefit can be gained from such a break even without falling asleep. Relaxation techniques may help you to wind down and switch off.

And it doesn't have to be at lunchtime. Depending on your schedule, a power nap can be taken at any time of the day. However, the lunchtime break is often the ideal time because people start to feel drowsy anyway after eating and having been sitting all morning. The «afternoon slump» is a common phenomenon.

In summary: power napping is healthy and recommended. However, an urgent need to sleep during the day can also indicate insufficient night-time sleep. This can be caused by apnoea, pain or reflux symptoms. If this is the case, or suspected, it’s worth seeing a doctor.

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