I love a little power nap in the afternoon. And before you chalk it up to a fad there are plenty of example of people making use of these quick naps. Churchill, Einstein and Gandhi all took afternoon power naps.

A power nap isn’t a full sleep. It is usually no more than 30 minutes and it doesn’t require the person to lay flat. But it can be just as restful as a sleep that last for several hours. The rest quality of a nap versus longer sleep has to do with the REM sleep cycle. REM (dreams) is not very restful, actually it tires you out. The longer you sleep, the greater the % of sleep is REM, so a nap will feel more restful than a longer duration sleep. Optimized it is best to sleep 6x 30 min than to sleep for 3 hours straight, though still best to sleep between 7 and 9 hours, after which you get negative returns.

REM – (Dream sleep). About 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep, where dreaming occurs. Your eyes move rapidly, your breathing shallows, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Also during this stage, your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed. This is the closest stage of sleep to being awake.

This is also why, when sleeping, you’ll find that sometimes when you wake up at a certain point in the night you will be dead tired, while if you wake up at another point you will feel energized and wide awake. It’s all about the point in the cycle (the cycle in total lasts around 90 minutes) that you wake up during.

NonREM – (NREM) sleep is the portion of your rest time in which you do not dream. It’s split into three stages:

  • Stage N1 (Transition to sleep) – This stage lasts about five minutes. Your eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.
  • Stage N2 (Light sleep) – This is the first stage of true sleep, lasting from 10 to 25 minutes. Your eye movement stops, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases
  • Stage N3 (Deep sleep) – You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. In this deepest stage of sleep, your brain waves are extremely slow. Blood flow is directed away from your brain and towards your muscles, restoring physical energy.