The Power of a Nap

Insomnia and disturbed sleeping (oh, those night sweats!) are hallmarks of perimenopause and menopause. But, sleep is a super-critical ingredient to both your mental and physical health.

It’s even critical for weight loss.

So when you aren’t sleeping well at night, there”s a quick fix that you can use that can get you by for a few days or even weeks. And, on top of keeping you on track, it can feel like the most luxurious, most decadently delightful 20 minutes of your day.

What’s this miracle? The POWER NAP!

What a Power Nap isn’t.

  • A Power Nap isn’t the 2 hour time out that you used to use on your children to get the kitchen cleaned up and a shower (even though you had to take the baby monitor with you!).
  • It doesn’t involve endless hours of tossing and turning and not sleeping, just like at night.
  • And, it’s not a long, afternoon-eating alternative to the Sunday football games or spent drowsing on the beach or by the pool (although there’s plenty to be said in favor of this kind of nap!).
  • Most importantly, it’s NOT spent on the couch in front of the TV after dinner! (No matter WHAT your husband says, this is NOT a power nap!)

What a Power Nap is.

A power nap is a very short nap, not more than 20 minutes, designed to terminate before you reach deep or “slow wave” sleep. Once you reach that point, you’ve entered into the normal sleep cycle and disrupting the cycle at this point will result in your waking up groggy and may even interrupt your regular overnight sleep.

Power naps, by contrast, usually leave you MORE alert and able to function. They are used to make up for a mild to moderate sleep deficit in the short term. A power nap, even a daily power nap, isn’t a substitute from attempting to establish a regular sleep pattern, but it CAN help you when you’re in one of those periods where you aren’t sleeping well for some reason.

Oh, and another benefit of a power nap – studies suggest that your blood pressure drops and your stress response falls significantly in that short period between wakefulness and sleep, and that this happens even when anticipating this short nap!

How to get a great Power Nap.

First thing – if you work in a place where a power nap isn’t regarded as a normal practice, clear it with your boss. You might have to slip away to your car or a quiet room for your break. Getting “caught” napping at your desk when your boss thinks you are working could result in a difficult conversation, but if you”ve cleared it to use your break time, you’re golden!

If you work for yourself, this is more important than you might think. Understanding the increase in productivity and focus that this 20 minute break can give you is vital to relaxing enough to work for you.

Next, make sure you schedule the nap between 1 pm and 3 pm. Any later than that, and you’re likely to interrupt your overnight sleeping pattern.

Set an alarm for 20 minutes. You want to keep this SHORT, so you don’t get into those deeper cycles of sleep. If you do, you”ll be groggy and may again disrupt your night”s sleep.

If you really need to be alert (and you normally consume caffeine), you can drink a caffeinated beverage – coffee, tea, or cola – immediately before your power nap. Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to begin to work in most people, so the drink won”t interfere with your nap, but it WILL make you even more alert immediately following your nap. If you don’t have a caffeine habit, I wouldn’t use this technique! Caffeine can make you jittery if you don”t use it on a regular basis!

If possible, nap in a dark room, or use an eye mask or even sunglasses to darken your space. Make sure the temperature of the room is cool enough, but not too cool to be comfortable as your body temperature drops slightly, even during this short nap. If you aren’t in a quiet place, you can use noise blocking headphones or soft, soothing music. You’ll need to be in a relatively comfortable chair or even laying on a couch. However, if all else fails, you can use your car, but be sure to keep on the air conditioning if it’s summertime!!! It can get dangerously hot in a car in the summer.

Now, close your eyes and picture a favorite quiet spot where you feel relaxed. Don’t obsess on “clearing your mind” or concentrating on one thought. This isn’t a meditation, it’s a nap. Let your mind wander, but re-center on your quiet spot if you get sucked into disturbing or stressful thoughts (like thinking about a fight with your spouse or an ugly encounter with a customer).

Practice with these techniques till it’s easy for you to drop into a quick cat nap and see what a difference it can make.

Why not “fix it right” and sleep at night?

Sure there are ways to change your sleeping patterns and get better sleep. But, the natural methods may take time to implement, to ingrain the new habits. And, there may be times of stress or night sweats or just your busy life when you just don”t get enough sleep and need a “quick fix.”

And the drugs – well, most of the drugs are recommended for short-term use (less than 2 weeks) and may have significant side effects. Yes, there may be reasons to resort to the drugs, but if you”re like me, you”d rather find a natural way to handle a problem than risk the side effects.

So, if you’re struggling with getting enough sleep for a period, use the Power Nap as a tool to get you through it.