Being a high school student isn’t easy. From the frantic pace by which we tackle the demands of our schoolwork, to the plethora of extracurricular activities we cram into the fixed amount of free time we have outside of class each day, our responsibilities really wear us out, too often at the expense of lost sleep. In fact, a recent Corvallis High School student poll found that students averaged only 6.25 hours of sleep per night, with 72% of respondees saying they simply don’t get enough sleep.
Enter the power nap.
A power nap is defined as a nap 10-30 minutes in duration, traditionally occurring six to eight hours after waking, and according to the National Institute of Health, power naps can positively enhance learning and performance for all ages. Napping has been shown to improve a variety of learning tasks, including our perceptual learning and verbal memory skills, as well as our logical reasoning and creative problem solving skills.
Furthermore, naps promote the consolidation of memories by converting newly learned information into long-term storage. They also help improve our fine motor skills and reaction time.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you of the benefits of making time for some extra shut-eye each day, naps have proven health benefits, too. Studies show naps improve our heart health, help lower our blood pressure, elevate our mood, lower our stress levels, and regulate our hormones.
To take full advantage of the benefits of a power nap, sleep scientists recommend napping no longer than 30 minutes, thereby napping only through the lightest phases of sleep, thus reducing the risk of grogginess that comes from entering deeper sleep phases of a sleep cycle.
Some helpful tips for power napping: be consistent – keep a regular nap schedule; make it quick – be sure to set an alarm to keep your nap under 30 minutes; find a dark place – blocking out light will help you sleep; play music or use white noise – music will help you focus on falling asleep, rather than your “to do” list; and finally, stay warm – your body temperature naturally drops as you nap.
Overall, taking time out of your busy schedule for a power nap will do more than just give you a boost of energy. Science says it can also help improve your school performance while providing a supplemental opportunity for brain and body restoration. The next time you find yourself struggling to stay awake, instead of grabbing a coffee for a swift caffeine boost, look for a quiet, relaxing place to lay your head, set your phone alarm, and close your eyes for a quick, rejuvenating power nap.