In the past if I’m not racing and waiting around for the next race for more than an hour, I would take a power nap to recharge my batteries. I’ve found it to be the next best thing to food after an intensive race. I’ll explain the reasons for it below, but you have to understand the basics of sleep first.
Facts on Sleep:
While small children typically take naps in the afternoon, our culture generally frowns upon mid-day sleep, even those who get enough sleep. Many people experience a natural increase in drowsiness in the afternoon, about 8 hours after waking or what we can call the “after lunch” effect. Research shows that you can make yourself more alert and energised with a nap. Mid-day sleep, or a ‘power nap’, gives you better reaction time and more efficiency for the next dragon boat race. Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of sleep and how a power nap can help you!
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The body needs 7-8 hours of sleep per day; 6 hours or less triples your risk of a car accident. (Interestingly, too much sleep–more than 9 hours–can actually be harmful for your health; recent studies show that those who sleep more than 9 hours per day don’t live as long as their 8-hour-sleep counterparts!)
The Effects of Missed Sleep
Sleep is cumulative, so if you lose sleep one day, you feel it the next. If you miss adequate sleep several days in a row, you build up a ‘sleep deficit’, which impairs the following:
- Reaction time
- Information processing
- Short-term memory
Fatigued people also experience more moodiness, aggressive behaviors, burnout and more stress. This leads to under performing for a race.
The Benefit of a Power Nap:
Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning (though the last two hours of morning sleep have special benefits of their own). The body seems to be designed for this, as most people’s bodies naturally become more tired in the afternoon, about 8 hours after we wake up.
How Long Should I Sleep?
When you sleep you pass through different stages of sleep, known together as a sleep cycle. These stages include light sleep, deep sleep (which is believed to be the stage in which the body repairs itself), and rapid-eye movement sleep, or REM sleep (during which the mind is repaired).
Many experts advise to keep the nap between 15 and 30 minutes, as sleeping longer gets you into deeper stages of sleep, from which it’s more difficult to awaken. Also, longer naps can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night, especially if your sleep deficit is relatively small. However, research has shown that a 1-hour nap has many more restorative effects than a 30-minute nap, including a much greater improvement in cognitive functioning. The key to taking a longer nap is to get a sense of how long your sleep cycles are, and try to awaken at the end of a sleep cycle. (It’s actually more the interruption of the sleep cycle that makes you groggy, rather than the deeper states of sleep.)
Power nap before your race
This is only a suggestion, but if you haven’t noticed when paddlers have a big time gap in between their race, you’ll see a bunch of them lying down taking quick power naps – you should too.
You’ll really feel the difference and if you do feel a bit sluggish after a power nap then you know you’ve overslept. Try to sleep less next time and you’ll feel more energised ready for the next dragon boat race!