Success Rituals: Design Your Habits – Change Your Life
One of the least discussed success rituals is power naps.
Yes, you read that right.
You may have heard of the Thomas Edison’s infamous power naps where he’d lay down in his lab with a marble or ball bearing in his hand. He’d doze off for a few minutes—until his hand relaxed enough for him to drop the ball—the sound would wake him and he’d resume working on whatever he’d been doing prior to the power nap.
Many people have mistakenly taken this as a sign of eccentricity or just a quirky part of his creative genius but in actuality power naps have been one of the success rituals used by several Presidents (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan & Bill Clinton) as well as Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte, commercial jet pilots, military pilots and brain scientists.
Power naps are often used to compensate for not getting enough sleep the night before or for helping restore energy when fighting off an illness or stress. But there is a less known advantage to power naps that is not widely taught that you can use to considerable advantage.
Brain research has shown that when learning something new, the first six hours after you learn or practice the new skill or subject is critical. This is when the initial memory consolidation takes place whether you’re asleep or awake. But studies show that the memory consolidation and any enhancements your brain does with the material is improved dramatically if you take a power nap of one hour or less during those first 6 hours after studying the new material or practicing the new activity you’re learning. More than one hour of a power nap does NOT help.
According to an article by Jane E. Brody (http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~wilkins/writing/Resources/essays/nap_refreshs.html) a NASA scientist’s study indicated that 24 minute power naps significantly improved a pilot’s alertness & performance on trans-Atlantic flights. This closely matches findings I witnessed first-hand in sleep deprivation studies done with U.S. Air Force pilots when I worked in the flight simulation center.
So, how do you use this information on power naps as one of your success rituals?
Here’s two simple ways to add power naps as one of your success rituals:
1. Anytime you’re feeling low on energy or run down from a lack of sleep, use part of your lunch hour or break time to find a quiet and preferably dark spot to lay down or recline and relax. Set your watch or cell phone alarm for anywhere from 12-52 minutes. Then just focus on your breathing and letting all the tension in your muscles escape your body. Don’t worry about falling asleep. That’s why you set the alarm. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep either. Forcing yourself is counterproductive. Relaxing is the key.
When your alarm goes off, slowly get up and take some long deep breaths and see how you feel.
The first time I did this years ago, I didn’t notice an immediate effect because I was wanting more sleep. But as the afternoon went on, I noticed I was more alert and had an extra reserve of energy that hadn’t been there before the power nap.
2. Any time you’re learning something new, see if you can sneak in a 12-52 minute power nap in the first 6 hours immediately following your study session or practice session, class or whatever learning situation you’re in. This will help your brain consolidate the information better and give you an advantage over others trying to learn the same thing.
This does not work with multiple subjects. For instance, if you’re learning to play guitar but between your guitar lesson and your power nap you also decide to take a cooking lesson, your brain will not consolidate the information efficiently. Stick to one topic or one new skill and your new success rituals use of power naps will be a major benefit to you.