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Is a Bojo-approved power nap the answer to your lockdown burnout?

Rosie Fitzmaurice
·5-min read
<p>There is a skill to power napping.</p> (REUTERS)

There is a skill to power napping.

(REUTERS)

Eyestrain, non-existent step counts, broken sleep cycles and a total overdose of screentime - almost a year of WFH is turning us all into zombies.

Struggling to draw the line between personal and professional life and find yourself firing off work emails well into the early hours, most nights, while glued to TikTok videos? You’re not alone. It’s safe to say the pandemic is taking its toll.

Bojo’s answer to juggling a hectic schedule? A cheeky power nap or “power executive business nap,” as described by a Downing Street Insider to Times Radio (though a No. 10 spokesperson has denied his napping habit).

No, not the tucked-up-on your sofa in front of Four in a Bed style - well, we don’t imagine so anyway (who knows what goes on behind closed doors) - rather the PM is apparently partial to the odd 40 winks - or half hour of shuteye - in between meetings “to get him ready for the rest of the day” - and starting each day at 6am with a jog around Buckingham Palace gardens followed by 12 hours in the office, he must need it.

The silver lining of endless lockdowns for the majority of us who are working from the comfort of our living rooms is prime napping opportunity. So could a daily power nap be the answer to your lockdown fatigue?

To nap or not to nap is a hotly contested topic, but plenty of research supports the argument for a mid-day snooze. A small study from the University of Saarland found that power naps of up to an hour could significantly improve memory performance, while another from the University of Bristol found that day-time naps may help people process information, and a large study published in online journal Heart in 2019 found that a daytime nap taken once or twice a week may even lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

But won’t napping just leave you feeling groggy? Not necessarily, providing your follow a few golden rules. There is an art to the power nap, according to Dr Guy Meadows, napping advocate and founder of the Sleep School app .

“Power napping can be an effective way to boost your alertness, energy and refreshment levels in the afternoon,” he says. A Sleep School survey reported that 43 per cent of the population are sleeping worse as a result of the pandemic, with work stress, anxiety, uncertainty and loneliness listed as key factors. “Taking a short power nap is recommended as a healthy way to cope with the added sleeplessness incurred during this challenging time. Not only will it help to alleviate daytime tiredness and fatigue, it can also help to improve mental performance and mood.

“Napping, like all skills, requires practice to get really good at it and reap the benefits. With many of us working from home at the moment, this could be the perfect opportunity to perfect your napping skills.”

Here are Dr Meadows’ pro tips on mastering your next power nap.

Keep it short

You’ve heard this before, but keeping a nap short and sweet is the key. “An ideal power nap should be between 10 and 20 minutes,” says Dr Meadows. “This prevents you falling into deep slow-wave-sleep, which can cause you to wake up feeling groggy and even more sleepier than before. The key to avoiding this so called sleep inertia effect is to find the right napping length for you. Aim to experiment with different times and when you feel fully alert within five minutes upon waking up from your nap, you know you have found your perfect lap length.”

Aim for the early pm

Timing is crucial too. “The best time to nap is between midday and 3pm, when we naturally feel sleepy. Whilst commonly referred to as the ‘post lunch dip and believed to be caused by the act of eating lunch, it’s actually the result of a natural dip in the ‘waking’ signal emitted from our internal body clock occurring at this time.

"To find your ideal nap time, take a moment to consider whether you are a morning type (wake up and sleep early) or an evening type (wake and sleep late). Early risers tend to nap closer to midday, whereas evening people fare better around 3pm. Napping later than 3pm can make it difficult to fall asleep during that night. Whatever time you choose to nap, aim to repeat it everyday, as this will help to make it a habit.”

Find a quiet space

“You can nap literally anywhere. For example, you might choose to lie down on your bed or on a sofa or sit in a comfy chair or even at your desk. For the best results, aim to make your environment as quiet, dark and comfortable as possible."

Set an alarm

“If you are new to napping, it’s worthwhile setting an alarm to ensure you wake up after your designated time and don’t slip into unwanted deep sleep. With regular practice, you’ll notice that it’s possible to start waking up naturally, without needing to set an alarm.”

Yes, you can nap every day…

How often you nap should depend on why you’re doing it, according to Dr Meadows. "If you’re feeling drowsy and this is affecting your performance such as your ability to drive, then taking an emergency nap, can be an effective way to boost your alertness and energy levels.

"In contrast, you may choose to nap habitually everyday, because it’s part of your healthy daily routine much like meditating or exercising. Napping is a skill and if you want to become better at it, we recommend practicing everyday. On the Sleep School app, we have a guided power nap meditation that teaches you how to both mentally prepare for and finish a nap, so that you can get the most out of it.”