Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2017
Are Power Naps any good? While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality night-time sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes (aka power nap) can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.  Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and this may persist for a few hours. The ultimate power nap would be to drink two cans of a functional energy drink, like Red Bull, just before the nap. The caffeine will take 30 minutes to start working so you get the benefit of the nap with the boost of the caffeine. (NB Coffee is a bad ‘drug delivery’ system for caffeine because dependent on how it is brewed the level of caffeine can vary massively. So although you think you are having a ‘strong’ black coffee it may actually contain no caffeine at all. Functional energy drinks on the other hand contain a standard, known amount) Napping can also have psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a welcome break in a stressful day. Whilst there are some benefits to napping there can also be negative effects, if the nap is too long or you are very tired you may suffer from sleep inertia upon awakening.  Sleep inertia is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep and can last for a few minutes to a half-hour, also if you nap too long or too late in the day this will affect your night-time sleep if you have trouble sleeping at night, a nap will only amplify problems. If you need to get 8 hours of sleep and you get 2 of them in the day you are likely not to need more than 6 hours sleep during the night so you will either find it difficult to fall asleep or wake up early. Old people may nap simply because they are bored, however if you are not sleeping well at night you may need a nap during the day, but  the nap during the day may be contributing to you not sleeping at night and thus a vicious circle develops. The problem is if you stop napping during the day in the hope that will shift this sleep into the night there is no guarantee that this will happen and thus you may just end up worse off. Therefore if you nap during the day and get an acceptable, to you, amount of sleep during the night and feel pretty OK during the day then don’t worry about having your nap. However if your nocturnal sleep is particularly poor then it may be worth trying to do without your nap for a couple of weeks and see if you sleep improves, if so carry on, if not go back to napping. In order to be able to nap you have to be able to cognitively disengage from your surroundings and some people are much better at doing this then others hence some people are able to pretty much nap anywhere at any time while other find it almost impossible to nap unless extremely sleepy when napping is unintentional. If you suffer from insomnia only occasionally, taking a short nap shouldn’t be a problem, but if you suffer from chronic insomnia, it’s probably best to avoid an afternoon snooze, so that you can re-establish a regular sleep pattern