Free Athletes are active. We live for speed, strength, power and action. But if there’s one thing we enjoy equally as much, it’s a nap. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t make us lazy. Quite the opposite actually: napping makes us even more productive. Here’s how:
It’s our reboot
Footballers have half time. Batteries recharge. We nap. With a lifestyle as busy as the average working athlete’s, a quick 20 minute shut eye allows us to reset our brain and digest the day’s information overload – resulting in improvements in learning and memory. Also, if you’ve ever experienced a good quality nap, you’ll know how much more focused and creative you are afterwards. The reason the lightbulb turns on after napping is because the brain‘s right hemisphere, which is involved in creativity, becomes more active and connected with the rest of the brain during naps. So nap up before you fizzle out.
But only if we do it right
Turns out, the perfect power nap is dependent on how long you‘re napping for, and when. We recommend limiting daytime sleep to 20-25 minutes and scheduling it for earlier rather than later. Why? Because the earlier you snooze, the more likely it is to add to the previous night‘s sleep. People who power nap later in the afternoon tend to have difficulty falling asleep at night, which throws them into a cycle of being sleep deprived. The 20-25 minute time frame prevents you from getting into the deeper stages of sleep which can make you feel groggy rather than energized when you wake up. To get the most out of your nap, find a dark, cool room – preferably a place where you won‘t be disturbed by others – turn off your phone and maybe even put on some relaxing music. We also recommend having some caffeine right before. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, we know, but a “caffeine nap” will actually improve the quality of your sleep and make you feel more energized when you wake up, since the effects of caffeine don‘t kick in for about 45 minutes.
And as an athlete, you need it more than most
Taking a nap is almost guaranteed to boost your performance. Many of us don‘t get the sleep we need to recover from our workouts, which can mess with our minds, moods and reaction times. Wondering whether you should sleep before or after training? It turns out both have benefits. Growth hormone levels spike during sleep, suggesting this may be an opportune time for muscles and connective tissue to repair themselves, however a nap can help prepare the body for physical exertion as well.
Napping could also keep you from overeating
The less you sleep, the more likely you are to overeat, crave junk food, and ultimately gain weight. This is because a lack of sleep triggers your body‘s production of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and lowers the levels of the hormone leptin, which tells you when you‘re full. Not to mention, people who are feeling sluggish during the day may be more likely to make poor food choices, especially if they‘re looking for an energy boost.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your pillow and take a snooze. You‘ll thank us later.