More Power to You: Power Naps

Sleep Inertia

Scientists have been researching the power nap as an aid to increased productivity and mental function. The statistics are promising. The half hour nap seems to promote improved memory function, whereas the hour-long nap leads to a state of groggy disorientation called sleep inertia.


Power napping works by giving you the kind of sleep you need to recover from burnout. Burnout occurs as a response to the brain's inability to process more information at the same time as it struggles to retain the information it has already accumulated.

Stages of Sleep

Memory is affected in different ways by the various stages of sleep. The earliest stage of sleep is rich in slow-wave sleep (SWS), while the later stages of sleep are marked by rapid eye movement sleep (REM). SWS is beneficial to declarative memory which is all about storing facts, while REM is an aid to procedural memory, which is more about performance (think of stirring a pot of pasta, or riding a bike). The hour long nap ends somewhere after SWS and before REM, leading the napper to feel sleepier than ever.

During a power nap, the snoozer stocks up on SWS. The theory is that a power napper recovers from burnout in an half an hour or so; getting the benefit of a full night's sleep without the time investment. This can be helpful to a student, or anyone who needs all his cognitive faculties in order to function in the workplace. Seen in this light, a power nap aids productivity and is well worth the half an hour spent nodding off at work or in school. On the other hand, the power nap does little to enhance one's ability to perform household tasks.

The upshot? Sleep deprived moms are going to need more than a power nap to recoup their losses. Hire a babysitter or ask a relative to care for the baby when the need to sleep overcomes your ability to function as a mother or execute simple domestic chores.

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