Feeling a little fuzzy? Not as clear-headed as you know you can be? Maybe you could use a nap!
Though there’s long been debate, the science is now in: There is such a thing as sleep debt, and it is a debt that you can, at least in part, repay. So how does that work? First, it’s important to recognize that there is such a thing as both short-term and long-term sleep debt.
Short-term debt includes things like staying up late one or two nights in a row for a work project or to cram for an exam, or waking up extra early to catch a flight. When you fall short of the recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep on one night, you can effectively make up for it over the coming nights or on the weekend (studies show that people tend to sleep more on the weekend and less during the week). For every hour of sleep that you lost during the week, try to make up an hour, either in one night or incrementally over several nights.
What happens when you can’t catch up? We call that long-term sleep debt—a debt accumulated over weeks, months or even years. To give your body and mind a rest after such sleep deprivation, try giving yourself a few days with a light schedule in which you can turn off your alarm clock and sleep every night until you wake naturally—a retreat, if you will. If you can manage to truly take a rest during those days without worrying about work, or being on the computer and so on, you’ll be taking a big and valuable step for your health and wellbeing.
Something else that can give you a boost of energy while helping you put money in your sleep bank is a Power Nap. This is a really effective nap technique that my patients around the world have benefited from. You can think of it as boosting your vitality in just seven steps. It goes like this:
- Take off your shoes (if you have shoes on) and make sure that you’re feet are warm, keeping or putting on a pair of socks as needed. Have a blanket handy in case you feel cold.
- Lie face down on your bed so that your feet just hang off the bed comfortably—if your bed isn’t handy, you can lie on the floor on a mat or blanket and put a pillow or cushion under your ankles so that they can hang over that (you don’t want to have any pressure on the tops of your feet).
- Put a pillow on your shoulder blades—not too high so that it is up at your neck and not too low so that it is below your shoulder blades. It’s nice if the pillow has some weight to it.
- If you feel cold, cover yourself and the pillow with the blanket.
- Turn your head to rest your cheek on the bed or mat.
- Let your arms rest comfortably at your sides, or raise them above your head if that is more comfortable for you.
- Rest there for 20 – 40 minutes. (Set your alarm as needed so that you don’t sleep longer than you wish.)
You may or may not fall asleep during this Power Nap. Sometimes, people tend to fall asleep just in the last few minutes of the rest period. It doesn’t matter. Whatever happens, you’ll probably be surprised at how energized you’ll feel later in the day.
If you feel even more tired in just the few minutes after the Power Nap, don’t worry. This will likely soon dissipate and then you’ll be energized.
And remember, as research documented in the journal Sleep found, the more tired we get, the less tired we feel. So why not give that nap a try?
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