Turns out, there's a secret to waking up from sleep refreshed and ready to go.
I keep farmer’s hours, getting up at 5.30am to squeeze in a workout and feed my horse. While I love having a few ping-free hours before the content mill that is journalism churns to life, 0-dark-30 wakeup times result in drowsy afternoons.
Around 2pm, after my sandwich has been devoured, I often find myself glassy-eyed and refreshing Twitter ad nauseam. Worse, by the end of the workday, I tend to be overtaken by sloth and skip out on the gym or cut my interval session short.
Researchers have long known that while occasional sleep deprivation may not affect things like an athlete’s max power for a single effort, it does impact an athlete’s mood and attitude. As a recreational cyclist, runner, and occasional triathlete, I don’t really care about how high my max power is at any given moment, but I do care that I keep giving up on my workouts.
The good news is that naps appear to be good for athletes. A 2007 study found that athletes had improved sprint performances in workouts after a 30-minute snooze. Plus, emerging research is showing short naps can boost work productivity, too.
“Napping for just 20 minutes may provide ample benefits, including improved alertness, mood, and vigilance,” says Aarthi Ram, a sleep neurologist at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. It may even help you learn more efficiently. In a 2002 study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers saw improved learning among a group who took a nap between teaching sessions versus those that did not.
A nap seemed like it might be the solution to my post-lunch lethargy and workout wussiness. And since I work from home, there was nothing stopping me. I waste a good 30 minutes a day (probably more if we’re being honest) rabbit hole-ing through the Internet, so why not repurpose those squandered minutes into a few gasps of actual rest?