“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap” – Carrie Snow
When we talk to our clients about the importance of rest and recovery, we make sure to differentiate it from sleep, and instead, describe it as an active process that occurs 24-hours-a-day, 7-days a week.
Daytime rest or napping, for example, is a process which allows you to recover mentally and physically at almost any time (providing many, but not all, of the benefits associated with a physical state of sleep).
With the hectic pace of day-to-day life, many of us don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night. Receiving a few less hours sleep for even a few nights can snowball into trouble, and over time, chronic sleep debt can contribute towards increased fatigue, increased stress levels, reduced attention span and decreased cognitive performance.
One way to combat the effects of sleep deprivation – and repay some sleep debt – is to incorporate daytime recovery into your schedule.
Through seeing daytime rest as another important aspect of your overall recovery alongside high-quality sleep, you can give your body and mind a further opportunity to continuously reboot and deal with the inevitable demands of daily life.
We can already hear some of you thinking “but, I’m really not a napper”.
Napping as we know it is part of the old-school approach to sleep.
We don’t call daytime rest periods ‘naps’, we call them Controlled Recovery Periods (CRPs), and they are used to enhance energy, mood and performance by everybody from elite athletes, to CEOS, to worn out mums or anybody else for that matter.
Even if you think that you can’t sleep during the day, that isn’t important, because anyone can receive the benefits of CRPs or power naps, and we strongly believe that this is something that everybody should at least experiment with.
The Concept of Polyphasic Sleep
A polyphasic sleep pattern is when a person sleeps for multiple periods of time (two or more) throughout a day.
Anthropology researchers who study tribes in places such as Botswana, Indonesia and South America report one common conclusion: polyphasic sleep was very likely the norm throughout our evolution.
Whilst it is clear that we no longer live in hunter-gatherer societies, and our own busy work and life schedules mean that daytime slumber isn’t usually an option, the research on polyphasic sleep reinforces the notion that Controlled Recovery Periods can provide benefits for health.
Anywhere between a 15 to 30 minute CRP operates in perfect harmony with nature (some individuals may even benefit from longer periods if you can afford that luxury).
The Benefits of Napping
The constant demands of our daily lives mean that night-time sleep is often the first thing to suffer. Daytime rest can provide an immediate, short-term solution to this problem by significantly improving mood, energy, performance and alertness after a night of poor sleep (or any time that you want to receive those benefits).
Research conducted by NASA has reported that even a ’26-minute’ CRP can improve subsequent performance, physiological and subjective alertness and mood. Other studies by the University of Dusseldorf have shown that even very short daytime recovery periods can enhance memory processing.
|Potential Health Benefits|
|10 - 20 min||Reduces sleepiness, improves cognitive performance, increases alertness, attention, and energy levels; improves mood; improves motor performance; reduces stress levels.|
|20 - 30 min||Enhances creativity; sharpens memory.|
|30 - 60 min||Sharpens decision-making skills, including memorization and recall; improves memory preservation.|
|60 - 90 min||Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is critical for problem solving, helps make new connections in the brain; enhances creativity; reduces negative reactivity, promotes happiness.|
We'd like to make it clear that CRPs are not a long-term fix for poor night-time sleeping, but they are an extremely effective and undervalued tool for short-term gain and optimising daytime performance.
Sleeping during the day-time does not fit well with our modern lives, and it certainly isn’t favoured by most employers (unless you’re working for Google, who recognises the ability of flexible working hours and inhouse recovery rooms to support their philosophy – “to create the happiest, most productive workforce in the world”).
Therefore, we need to find ways to fit CRPs into our own unique daily schedules if we want to receive their benefits.
The 15 – 30 minutes option is likely to be the most practical approach to CRPs for the majority of us.
How to Take a CRP / Nap
The truth is that you do not need to do anything other than close your eyes in a position that is comfortable for you.
Sure, this could be laying down on a comfortable bed, but it’s more likely to look like sitting up in an unused room at work, a quiet corner of the staff room or a bench outside if the weather permits.
The fact that we can close our eyes and relax almost anywhere that we are seated or laying down makes taking a CRP easy. If NASA’s pilots can do it in their cockpit seat whilst they glide as high as 30,000ft whilst travelling 500 mph, then we can find a quiet corner to take 15 – 30 minutes out of our hectic day to recover, recharge and emerge revitalised.
Here are some simple steps for approaching your first CRP:
- Find a spot where you can get yourself comfortable.
- Set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ (aeroplane mode if possible).
- Set your alarm to signal the end of your CRP (15 – 30 minutes ideally).
- Close your eyes and just let go (continuously breathing in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds through your nose is a great strategy if you need help relaxing – this will shift your body into a regenerative & restorative state).
- Remain confident in knowing that the mere act of reducing your visual environmental stimulation and consciously focusing on your breath is inducing a state of relaxation and recovery. When your mind wanders – simply refocus your attention on your breath over and over again as you drop into deeper levels of relaxation and awareness.
Those of you who claim that you ‘can’t nap’ won’t be able to fall asleep. But the best thing about this is that it does not matter if you don’t enter the sleep state.
What is important, however, is that you use the CRP to close your eyes, tune into your breath and disconnect from the world around you for even as short as 10 minutes.
Technology to Improve the Quality of your CRP
There are tools and resources such as technology applications and YouTube videos which can greatly improve the quality and effectiveness of your CRP.
We believe in these methods very strongly having personally experienced them enhancing the quality of my own daytime rest.
Binaural Beats Soundtracks
The word binaural means “having or relating to two ears”.
Binaural beats soundtracks work by simultaneously sending a marginally different sound frequency into each of your ears through your headphones.
When your brain hears the two different frequencies sent simultaneously to your left and right ears, it perceives a third tone based on the mathematical difference between the two frequencies played to each ear.
The brain then follows the new frequency and produces brainwaves at the same rate of Hertz (Hz) or frequency.
In the example below, a sound frequency of 200 Hz is sent into the left ear and a 205 Hz into the right ear, resulting in the brain perceiving a new frequency of 5 Hz (Theta brainwaves).
All you have to do is put in a pair of headphones and listen to a binaural beats soundtrack that provides the frequency of brainwave entrainment that you desire (source: www.binauralbeatsmediation.com).
Theta brainwaves promote REM sleep, deep relaxation, inner peace and creativity – therefore, a Binaural beat track that promotes these brainwaves is perfect for a short 15 to 30 minute CRP. Here are a few resources for you to experiment with:
Another similar, highly effective tool for improving the ease and quality of your CRPs is the newer technology application Pzizz, which claims to be the world’s most advanced sleep and power nap system.
Clinical research has been carried out into the effectiveness of Pzizz, which revealed that using the app resulted in increased relaxation and well-being over other psychoacoustic methods (full Pzizz research study can be read here).
We have personally experimented with using Pzizz and would happily endorse it as a great tool, not only for its power nap feature which clearly improves CRPs efficiency but also for its meditation and relaxation functions, which are ideal to implement into a pre-sleep routine.
Despite the myriad of physical and emotional consequences that begrudge us as a result of suffering from even one night of poor sleep, this should not necessarily seal the fate of our mood and performance for the entire day.
Daytime recovery in the form of Controlled Recovery Periods (CRPs) WITH or WITHOUT the use of assistive technology provide the opportunity for your brain and body to actively recover at any time during the day.
After reading all this information, you probably ‘kind of get it’.
Why don’t you move one step further and test the science for yourself? What’s the worst that can happen – you fall asleep and receive the rest that your body needs?
With that in mind, we have a few questions..
- Are you a regular napper or somebody who has felt the benefits?
- Have you tried binaural beats or other technology-assisted ways to recover?
- Do you have any advice or tips that you would like to share with others?
We'd love to hear from you!
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Please get in touch if you have any questions!
Dan & Jamie