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NASA Power Nap: How To Energize Like An Astronaut

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NASA Power Nap: How To Energize Like An Astronaut about My Sleep Miracle

It's no secret that high-quality sleep can give you the energy you need to handle the challenges your day brings whether it's at work, at home or at play. And when you don't get the rest you need at night, you may find yourself trying to make up for this lost sleep during the day with a "power nap."

You know what we're talking about...

When you nod off on the couch after lunch or lay down for a spell before dinner. These short bursts of sleep can help raise your energy levels and improve your health, too. Sleep experts say these naps help improve brain performance and alertness and reduce stress.

But you have to nap for the EXACT right amount of time to get the maximum health benefits. Now, thanks to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), we know just what that number is.

You see, astronauts take strategic naps when they are in space to ensure their job performance and focus is top level. In fact, research from the space agency found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes experienced the greatest results.

Today, we'll explain why this magic number works and how you can use it to optimize your naps and make them even more "powerful."

Key Takeaways

  • Daytime napping can improve brain performance in operational settings and boost job performance.

  • Sleeping during the day can boost your memory and alertness if done for the right amount of time. However, it can also leave you tired and groggy if you nap too long.

  • NASA research has shown that a 26-minute nap could improve your health, mood, and alertness.

The Culture of Power Napping

Everyone has their own name for the power nap -- "disco nap" and "NASA nap" are a few of our favorites. No matter what you call daytime slumber, making it a regular habit could increase your health, mood, and cognitive performance .

The Science Behind Napping

A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Public Health explored the benefits of taking short naps for improved cognitive performance. For the research, scientists analyzed the data from 11 studies, looking for a connection between nap length and alertness improvements.

At the end, they found that short naps (20-30 min) increased alertness, memory, and executive function, with implications for workplace productivity and well-being. One reason it's crucial to wake after 30 minutes is to prevent something called sleep inertia, the temporary disorientation and trouble thinking you have when you awake from sleep.

So, waking up before your body goes into a deep sleep cycle (like rapid eye movement or REM sleep) can help prevent this type of confusion and those groggy feelings.

Another critical factor for healthy daytime sleep is timing.

Other research finds that snoozing in the afternoon enhances cognitive performance, especially in tasks like addition, logical reasoning, reaction time, and symbol recognition. Afternoon naps can also boost memory, creativity, productivity, physical performance, and mood.

In fact, data has revealed that shorter afternoon naps -- about five to 15 minutes -- can lead to an almost immediate enhancement in cognitive function. And again, longer naps may initially cause drowsiness.

That's why understanding the importance of NASA power naps -- and the results from the space administration's experiment -- is critical for anyone who wants to boost their brain power, reduce stress, and fall asleep for just the right amount of time.

So, What Is A NASA Power Nap?

Well, it all comes down to timing. Folks who work overnight or who work long shifts -- such as pilots, nurses, and other shift workers-- can benefit from getting a quick doze when they need to be productive.

But most of these folks can't get into bed whenever they want. And that's where NASA came in.

In 1995, the space agency gave pilots a 40-minute window to nap during a flight while another employee took over their duties. Ultimately, the data revealed the perfect nap time for anyone who wants to improve their alertness, mood, focus, and memory.

Here are all of the details...

The Science Behind the NASA Power Nap

NASA's study showed a whopping 34 percent performance improvement and 54 percent alertness increase in pilots after a 26-minute nap.

Can you imagine what this could mean for you?! Your whole day could change in just 26 short minutes of rest.

Experts report that napping for this amount of time works because it shifts brain waves from Beta to Alpha waves, which is associated with heightened cognition and creativity. This brain wave transition during naps contributes to improved mood and performance levels.

Even better? A short nap -- like the one from the NASA study -- can boost your health too!

Health Benefits of The NASA Nap

Recent research reports that midday naps are linked to greater cardiovascular recovery from stress and reduced coronary mortality risk, particularly among working men. Regular napping is also associated with higher life expectancy and decreased heart disease rates.

In addition, this healthy habit does wonders for improving mood. Short rests can help reduce impulsiveness and frustration, leading to a better attitude and outlook. In fact, sleep acts as a mood booster, helping you deal with stress and enhancing your overall emotional well-being.

And there's even more good news for your brain...

Brain Benefits of the NASA Power Nap

Habitual daytime napping has been linked to larger total brain volumes. While specific cognitive benefits may vary, napping can contribute to overall brain health and function. This is important because studies suggest that your brain shrinks with age, especially your brain's gray matter which is where part of your brain's memory and learning centers are located.

Other studies have found that brief naps can also boost brain health by supporting brain function and potentially protecting against age-related decline.

The science suggests that napping may even contribute to better cognitive abilities as you age.

How to Take a NASA Power Nap

If you're anything like us, you're probably ready to make NASA naps a part of your daily routine. Luckily, it's easy to do.

Just find a quiet, comfy place to lie down -- like the bed or couch -- in the early afternoon or at the first sign you're a little tired. (If your house is busy, you can always use a pair of ear plugs.)

Next, set an alarm for 26 minutes and doze off. And voila! You'll wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the day! But it's crucial you keep that timer set. Because sleeping longer than 30 minutes can do more harm than good. That brings up an important question...

How Do You Avoid Common Napping Pitfalls?

While there are plenty of reasons to start napping today, there are some risks to be aware of, too.

As we've mentioned, nap duration is key. Sleep experts report that napping too long can do more harm than good. But there's more to worry about than just waking up groggy from sleep inertia.

You see, research indicates that long naps can do REAL damage to your brain and your body.

Make Napping Work for Your Memory, Not Against It

Our team has reported before on how taking more than one long nap a day can increase your risk of Alzheimer's by 30 percent. And there's a good reason for this correlation.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco recently discovered that changes in the brain during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can negatively impact brain regions responsible for keeping us awake during the day.

The California scientists say that as tau, a type of protein, collects in the brain in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, it destroys the brain cells, or neurons, that are supposed to keep us alert. This means excessive napping could both be an indicator -- and a cause -- of memory issues.

But there's more to consider..

Your Longevity: Don't Let Excessive Napping Shave Years From Your Life

In addition to memory problems, frequent daytime napping has been associated with a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Excessive napping may contribute to cardiovascular complications, particularly in people with poor sleep habits.

One study published in the journal Hypertension found that regular daytime napping is linked to a 12 percent higher risk of developing high blood pressure and a 24 percent increased stroke risk.

In fact, oversleeping -- including excessive napping --has been linked to various medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, headaches, back pain, depression, and even an increased risk of death.

Good Sleep Hygiene: 5 Tips For Restful Sleep

The good news is that you can establish good sleep hygiene- or useful habits for getting a good night's sleep- by preparing your sleep environment and evening behavior. Here are five ways to get started by considering:

  1. Light: Light impacts sleep in two ways. It resets your internal clock or circadian rhythm, directly affecting your sleep schedule. Light can also disrupt your sleep and wake you in the night. That's why it's key to get direct sunlight in the morning and avoid artificial light in the evening. You can block out external nighttime lights with blackout curtains and wear blue light-blocking glasses while using screens before bed.

  2. Noise: Noise can interrupt your sleep patterns, too. Wearing earplugs is one of the easiest ways to avoid being woken up by noise. Research also shows that listening to binaural beats -- special sound frequencies -- can improve sleep. One study found that 73 percent of folks listening to binaural beats had higher melatonin levels, with an average increase of 97 percent.

  3. Temperature: Air temperature also plays a role in proper sleep. Your body temperature declines as you fall asleep and slowly rises as you wake. If your bedroom is too warm, you may be restless and spend less time in REM and other deep sleep stages. Research finds that the ideal temperature for sleep is 65 to 68 degrees F.

  4. Air quality: Air quality is another factor for good sleep hygiene. Many studies have found that air pollution and poor indoor air quality can contribute to sleep issues. Using a high-quality air filter can help improve the air quality in your bedroom. Additionally, regularly dusting and vacuuming your sleep environment can also help reduce impurities in the air.

  5. Comfort: Not surprisingly, comfort may be the most important factor for healthy sleep. A high-quality mattress, breathable bedding, and comfortable pillows are all key for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Summary

NASA researchers report that taking a 26-minute nap could be one of the best ways to improve brain performance, alertness, and mood. However, other research shows that napping for more than 30 minutes or multiple times daily could lead to memory issues and heart problems. If you want to take a NASA power nap, or any nap for that matter, good sleep hygiene is essential for getting quality sleep. Good sleep hygiene includes controlling factors in your sleep environment-- like light, noise, temperature, air quality, and comfort-- so you can achieve restful sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a caffeine power nap?

A caffeine or coffee power nap is when you drink a coffee or caffeinated drink before taking a short nap. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for your body to process caffeine. Therefore, when you wake from your short nap, you will be more alert from both the rest and the caffeine.

What is scientifically the best nap?

According to NASA research, a 26-minute nap is optimal for improving job performance, increasing alertness, and improving mood.

Do astronauts go for a long nap?

NASA reports that the pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes saw the most significant mental and physical improvements over those who slept for longer periods of time.

Are power naps healthy?

Yes, as long as they are shorter than 30 minutes. Research shows that longer naps are linked to Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and other health issues.

Dutheil F, Danini B, Bagheri R, Fantini ML, Pereira B, Moustafa F, Trousselard M, Navel V. Effects of a Short Daytime Nap on the Cognitive Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 28;18(19):10212. doi: 10.3390/ijerph181910212. PMID: 34639511; PMCID: PMC8507757.

Frequent Naps Could Increase Your Risk Of Stroke. https://www.verywellhealth.com/frequent-naps-could-increase-your-risk-of-stroke-6362621

Sleep Disorders. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/physical-side-effects-oversleeping

Yang M, Zhang Z, Wang Y, et al. Association of nap frequency with hypertension or ischemic stroke supported by prospective cohort data and mendelian randomization in predominantly middle-aged European subjects. Hypertension. Published online 2022. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.122.19120 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35876003/

Yang MJ, Zhang Z, Wang YJ, Li JC, Guo QL, Chen X, Wang E. Association of Nap Frequency With Hypertension or Ischemic Stroke Supported by Prospective Cohort Data and Mendelian Randomization in Predominantly Middle-Aged European Subjects. Hypertension. 2022 Sep;79(9):1962-1970. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.122.19120. Epub 2022 Jul 25. PMID: 35876003. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35876003/

Paz V, Dashti HS, Garfield V. Is there an association between daytime napping, cognitive function, and brain volume? A Mendelian randomization study in the UK Biobank. Sleep Health. 2023 Oct;9(5):786-793. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2023.05.002. Epub 2023 Jun 20. PMID: 37344293. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37344293/

NASA. The Benefits of Napping For Safety https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20190033981/downloads/20190033981.pdf

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-naps-good-for-you/

Smith, A. P., Rusted, J. M., Eaton-Williams, P., Savory, M., & Leathwood, P. (1990). Effects of caffeine given before and after lunch on sustained attention. Neuropsychobiology, 23(3), 160–163. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2098674/

Centers For Disease Control (CDC). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/work-hour-training-for-nurses/longhours/mod7/03.html

Patel, A.K., Reddy, V., & Araujo, J.F. (2022, September 7). Physiology, sleep stages. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing., Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526132/

Lovato N, Lack L. The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Prog Brain Res. 2010;185:155-66. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53702-7.00009-9. PMID: 21075238. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21075238/

Dutheil, F., Danini, B., Bagheri, R., Fantini, M. L., Pereira, B., Moustafa, F., Trousselard, M., & Navel, V. (2021). Effects of a short daytime nap on the cognitive performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(19), 10212. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34639511/

Rosekind, M. R., Smith, R. M., Miller, D. L., Co, E. L., Gregory, , KB, Webbon, L. L., Gander, P. H., & Lebacqz, J. V. (1995). Alertness management: strategic naps in operational settings. Journal of sleep research, 4(S2), 62–66. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10607214/

Michael J. Breus, PhD. Psychology Today. How Can Binaural Beats Help You Sleep Better? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201810/how-can-binaural-beats-help-you-sleep-better

Harding, E. C., Franks, N. P., & Wisden, W. (2020). Sleep and thermoregulation. Current Opinion in Physiology, 15, 7–13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32617439/

Lok, R., van Koningsveld, M. J., Gordijn, M., Beersma, D., & Hut, R. A. (2019). Daytime melatonin and light independently affect human alertness and body temperature. Journal of pineal research, 67(1), e12583. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31033013/

NASA. Sleep Environment Recommendations for Future Spaceflight Vehicles. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20170001764/downloads/20170001764.pdf

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