Naps are amazing. And that's not just my opinion. It's science, man!
Lots and lots of recent research suggests that brief interludes of shut-eye in the middle of the day can significantly increase your energy levels, boost brain power, and even keep you living longer. If you're not already a power nap pro, these five simple steps will help you master the art in no time. Pro tip: Forward this to your boss asap.
Step 1: Schedule your naps like they're important meetings
Admittedly, finding a free half-hour just to scarf down lunch during the ever-hectic workday can be tough enough, but if you can carve out just 20 minutes, you'll thank yourself later. Our circadian rhythms make it more likely that you'll fall into a deep sleep in the afternoon, so if at all possible, find time right before or after lunch, as those are the optimal times to catch a quick snooze.
Step 2: Snack like a nap champ
To make it easier to pass out, avoid eating foods high in sugar or fat an hour or two before you plan to konk out. Instead, opt for snacks high in calcium or protein, since they're known to promote better sleep.
Better yet, why not just eat healthier the whole damn day? Heavy food will bog you down no matter how well-rested you are.
Step 3: Find your zone
Unless you're one of the lucky few whose offices provide dedicated napping rooms and special sleeping pods (looking at you, Google), this can be a little tricky, but it's important.
You'll need to get creative to achieve the triumvirate for optimal sleeping conditions (darkness, quiet, and warmth) while at the office. Maybe there's a lockable conference room no one ever uses with a couch? Hammock in the supply room? Curl up under your desk like Costanza? If there's no way to reliably sequester yourself, there's always the Ostrich Pillow, which blocks out the world and enables bold desktop snoozefests.
Step 4: Don't overdo it
Just like hitting the snooze button nonstop on your alarm is a horrible way to start the day, sleeping beyond your allotted 20 minutes will only hurt you in the end. That's because after 20 minutes of slumber you enter into a deeper sleep cycle and a state of sleep inertia, from which waking up will cause brutal grogginess that will keep you behind the 8-ball for the rest of the day.
If you've hit the jackpot and somehow scored 90 free minutes for a nap session, go ahead and sleep through it. After 90 minutes you'll have cycled through all three stages of sleep and back into a light stage, from which you'll awake feeling the benefits of having slept for a full night, and function at a higher level for the rest of the day.
Step 5: Get technical
Nap tech has come a long way. The forthcoming Napwell sleep mask—developed by engineers at MIT, Harvard Medical School, and Stanford—will gently wake you during light sleep cycles by simulating a sunrise via interior lights. Need something right this minute? The brilliant Sleep Cycle Power Nap app employs your phone's accelerometer to track body movement from your pocket and gently wake you in the lightest sleep phase.
You could also try sweet talking your company's HR department into setting up EnergyPods (essentially reclined dentist's chairs with built-in isolation chambers) or Tron-esque Power Nap Capsules. Hey, it never hurts to ask!
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He has dreams about napping.