Everyone gets that “2:30 feeling.” Military personnel happen to get it at all times of day. Maybe you’re on mids. Maybe you’re in transit from Afghanistan to Japan. Or maybe you’re being punished for doing something stupid. It happens. But we don’t always have access to Five Hour Energy shots, and sometimes coffee isn’t cutting it. The best thing to do is give in: have your battle cover you while you rack out for a few minutes.
Or maybe fifteen? A half-hour? A full hour? How long is the proper power nap? Thanks to NASA, we have the answer.
“We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t… what? We can? Oh, thanks, NASA.”
There’s no shame in needing a little afternoon siesta. Anyone who swears by the power nap will tell you that nodding off for a few minutes can revive them for hours. Just don’t let the First Sergeant catch you. But if you can get away with it on duty, you (and your coworkers) will be grateful to find you more productive and operating at a higher level. It’s a natural part of human circadian rhythm, you’re going to be intensely sleepy twice per day. You can’t stop it, none of us can.
So stop blaming the turkey already.
NASA’s research showed that naps really can fully restore cognitive function at the same rate as a full night’s sleep. The space agency found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes showed alertness improvements of up to 54 percent and job performance improvements by 34 percent, compared to pilots who didn’t nap. But 26 minutes might be a little long.
“Napping leads to improvements in mood, alertness and performance [such as] reaction time, attention, and memory,” according to Kimberly Cote, Ph.D, Professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University, who co-authored a similar study with researcher Catherine Milner. “Longer naps will allow you to enter deeper sleep, which will contribute to the grogginess — also called sleep inertia — experienced upon awakening and disrupt nighttime sleep.”
The worst part is when you wake up and you’re still in Afghanistan.
Cote and NASA suggest taking power naps between 10 and 20 minutes long. You’ll get the most benefit from a sleep cycle without any of the grogginess associated with longer sleeping periods. You don’t need to get through all five sleep stages, just the first two. Even just getting to stage 2 sleep for a few minutes will revive a napper enough to give him or her a new outlook on the day.
So get cozy and rack out for a few. It’s actually better for everyone.