We all know that a good nap in the middle of the day can be extremely refreshing; there's nothing like a quick power nap to re-energize yourself, make you more alert, and feeling much more positive about whatever tasks the rest of the day has in store for you - it can be like those rare occasions when you wake up all on your own feeling perfectly refreshed, chipper, and positive about the day ahead.
On the other hand, we've also all experienced those mid-day naps which can leave us groggy, disoriented, and in no mood to deal with the day, let alone its many tasks. We must ask, then, how can we harness the benefits of the positive nap, while avoiding the consequences of the disorienting one?
First of all, let's take a look at some of top "napping techniques" suggested by a quick web search:
1.) Best time of day: The best time of the day to take a nap, apparently, is between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM, since at that time of day your energy level takes a small dive (apparently due to a rise in a hormone called melatonin). If this so-called "prime nap time" doesn't work out for you, then at the very least do not nap within three hours before you go to bed, as this could interfere with your ordinary sleep schedule.
2.) Best duration: Some sites recommend napping for no longer then 30 minutes; the logic behind this being that if you nap any longer than this, you run the risk of falling into a deeper sleep, one that waking up in the middle of could leave you feeling groggy and/or grumpy. Your sleep apparently comes in stages: the first two stages, considered as light sleeping, each last about ten minutes; after that, you're beginning to move into deeper stages of sleeping.
This makes the ideal nap time about 20 minutes, with 30 minutes being the absolute maximum (of course, these sleeping stages vary from person to person, so some experimentation might be necessary). In general you have to take the above (along with anything you read online ) with a grain of salt. Some sites say 1 hour is ideal, that less than that leads to grogginess, and other sites say other things. Your best bet is to figure out what works best for you.
3.) The caffeine nap: This technique apparently works for some people: take a nap immediately after drinking a cup of coffee. As the caffeine from the coffee can take 10-20 minutes before it kicks in, the idea is that it will wake you up automatically - and that way, you get a kind of double energization from the nap and the caffeine at the same time. Researchers in Japan have done studies on the caffeine nap (for the sake of increasing the productivity of workers) and found the the caffeine nap was more effective than taking a nap along with washing one's face, as well as taking a nap along with being exposed to bright lights.
4.) Nap regularly: Some nappers claim that the odd nap here and there tends to make them groggy, whereas if they nap at the same time every day then they get the great, refreshing type of nap.
5.) Lift you feet up: Other nappers claim that lifting your feet up above the level of your heart can make naps deeper as well as shorter.
6.) Nap somewhere different than your bed: Since you are used to bedding down for a full night's sleep in it, your bed may compel you to spend longer napping. If you nap somewhere you are not used to sleeping, on the other hand, you will be less likely to oversleep (is "over-nap" a word?). Drug users use a similar trick to get higher (shooting up in an unfamiliar place), or avoid overdoses by shooting up in a familiar place. The power of habit is strong.
7.) "Medinap": I may have coined another new word. If you absolutely just can't manage to get a good nap, no matter how many tricks or techniques you try, then maybe try meditating. Many people say that meditation can be equally as refreshing as a good nap.
8.) Nap during your commute: If you take public transportation, especially if its a lengthy commute, then you could make up for the extra time lost by getting up early by getting some extra rest on the train or bus. Do it on the way home too (why not?).
9.) Hold a pie tin: Apparently, Thomas Edison would nap holding a pie tin, and when the tin would fall from his hand, the nap would be over. This probably isn't true, but it might just work.
10.) Hold a spoon over a tin pan: Similar to the one above. Hold a spoon in your hand over a tin pan. When you go into REM sleep, your muscles apparently go through some change and you will drop the spoon into the pan, waking you up before you get the chance to go into a deeper sleep. Someone said Salvador Dali did this.
These are just a few of the so-called "nap techniques" out there; the list really goes on and on and on, so if none of these work you'll have no trouble finding more. Before you spend any more of your precious time researching the best techniques for refreshing yourself, there may be something else you want to consider.
Think about what we are really talking about here. Consider, especially, the Japanese study directed at increasing worker productivity. In the same vein, consider the fact that wikipedia, in their page on napping, boasts about a number of napping "benefits", one of which is an increase in productivity. Once again, in this example, our napping studies, or are napping research, are aimed towards our productivity.
When we are talking about energizing or refreshing ourselves, what are we doing this for? In other words, towards what is our "productivity" being directed? I think if you thing about it, really, you'll find that we need to energize ourselves for alienating tasks. Truly fulfilling activities , in other words, those which are not alienating, require no additional energization - no extra tricks or techniques in order to get us moving - when we are truly engaged in or with something, we don not need extra stimulation, or some trick to make us feel positive or energized.
In other words, all of these napping techniques, if they are aimed at making ourselves more productive, imply alienation. What if, instead or trying to make ourselves more productive within alienation, do we not talk about escaping our alienation, or escaping the world of mundane tasks which requires a technique of external stimulation? Why spend all this energy on researching how to increase our productivity (and I direct this towards both the individual researching this online, and the "scientist") when we could instead be spending this time researching where this world of alienation has come from, and how we can overcome it?
The study mentioned above is, in my opinion, absolutely disgusting. To experiment on human beings to see how we can make them more productive, by way of chemicals (caffeine) or other forms of stimulation, such as exposing them to bright lights, I find absolutely horrifying. This horror is not directed exclusively at Japan: " A NASA study led by David F. Dinges, professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that naps can improve certain memory functions and that long naps are more effective than short ones. In that NASA study, volunteers spent several days living on one of 18 different sleep schedules, all in a laboratory setting. To measure the effectiveness of the naps, tests probing memory, alertness, response time, and other cognitive skills were used" (this is from wikipedia again).
Does this kind of research honestly pass for "science"? "Science" means nothing more than knowledge. What kind of knowledge do these studies bring us? Which techniques, or stimulations will best make the human being better able execute mundane memory or motor skill tasks? It is nothing more than a knowledge of manipulation; and the fact that it can pass as objective science makes my heart tremble.
When we ask ourselves how we can best harness the benefits of the positive nap, while avoiding the consequences of the disorienting one, we do nothing other than ask how we can best manipulate our "selves" as a sac of biological functions, or as an alien thing which by poking or prodding in the right way we can "get the most" out of - and this, not towards any kind of meaningful or engaging activity, but towards alienating tasks which in truth benefit other people. Are you sure, then, that you want to spend any more time thinking about if putting your feet above your heart during a nap is best and so on?