Spain does it. China does it. South Italy, India and Vietnam do it. What am I talking about? Naps. While many highly productive countries encourage workers to shut down for a short while during the day, the United States has no such nap culture, despite countless scientific studies that tout the benefits of the siesta.
Whether you work from home or toil away at an office, having a short, regenerating nap can make all the difference between great work and sub-par output. Rebooting your brain can be done in a bed, on the floor of an office, or in the reclining seat of a car, but here are ways to fall asleep quickly and get maximum benefits from a 20 or 30 minute window:
1. Aim for 10 or 20 minutes, not 30
Recent studies have debunked the myth that 30 minutes is the optimal time period for naps. Instead, 10 or 20 minutes can deliver a huge boost to cognitive function, alertness, and even memory. To hit this sweet spot, give yourself an extra 10 minutes for your siesta. You’ll probably need five minutes to fall asleep and a few minutes to get yourself together afterward, so tack on a few minutes just for these things.
2. Use a sleep app with earbuds
Many sleep experts say you should shut off or silence any electronic devices during a nap, especially mobile phones. In my experience, your cell phone can actually be your best friend during sleep breaks. Download any free or paid sleep or power nap app, grab some earbuds, and set up your program. Even free sleep apps offer a 10 or 20 minute power nap sequence, and you can use the sounds of crashing waves, rain, or even a crackling fireplace to lure yourself to sleep.
3. Develop a sleep scene
Is there a particular scenario that you think of that makes you sleepy? If not, come up with a sequence that accompanies the sound of your nap app. I call this a sleep scene. For me, I think of walking down a Hawaiian beach, and eventually lying down in the warm sand in front of the ocean. With an accompanying app featuring sounds of crashing waves, I can typically fall asleep just about anywhere – on a train, in my car on a cold day, or even during a KISS concert. Yes, that actually happened. Don’t judge.
4. Drink caffeine before you nod off
When I first read about this theory, I immediately thought it was a dumb idea. Why would you hop yourself up on caffeine before you settle down to sleep? Apparently, the joke was on me. Caffeine takes around 20 minutes to kick in, so drinking coffee before your power nap can make you highly alert just minutes after you wake up.
For anyone who nods off during the day, a short nap is not just a life-saver, it’s the only way to power through afternoon tasks. Some of the tips above might seem a bit odd, but as a work from home warrior who has tested almost every nap theory, I can confirm that a caffeine filled, sleep app-accompanied, sleep scene-induced 10 minute break is exactly the nap you’re looking for.