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How a Nap Can Boost Your Productivity (If You Do It Right)

- The surrealist painter, Salvador Dali,

had a pretty interesting hack for generating new

creative ideas.

During the afternoons he would sit in his chair

with one arm draped over the side of that chair

holding a key.

And beneath that key there was an upside down plate.

From there he would let himself drift off until just

before the moment he was about to fall asleep.

At which point the key would fall from his hand

to clatter onto the plate and wake him up,

often with a new artistic idea in his mind.

Dali called this technique sleeping without sleeping.

But you might recognize it as a pre-alarm clock version

of the modern power nap.

And he wasn't the only one who used this.

Thomas Edison was rumored to do the exact same thing

with a ball baring instead of a key and Beethoven,

while he didn't use this key and plate method,

was fond of taking naps in his carriage in order to

get new musical ideas.

All of these people knew well the benefits of an

afternoon nap which is, if you think about it,

probably the best productivity technique ever.

I mean, if you think about all the other ones we've

talked about on this channel, whether it be the Fineman

technique or the Pomodoro technique,

or even just cleaning up your study space,

they all kind of sort of involve work,

which makes them a hassle.

- Right? Who needs that.

- Right? - Right.

- By contrast, taking a nap in the afternoon involves

basically no effort whatsoever and yet has a ton

of productivity benefits.

It can help deal with feelings of fatigue and leave

you more energetic for the rest of the day and it

can also help with creativity and memory consolidation.

But if you do it wrong it could also just leave you

feeling groggy and waste a ton of your time.

And because of that I put on my researching hat this week

and I wanted to figure out what actually make a good

productive afternoon nap?

So that is what you're going to learn in this video

and I've got five big things to share with you

ranging from basic nap techniques to some more advanced

stuff and some tools and even an app that can help you out.

But first we do need to answer the question why do

people like to nap in the first place?

There are a couple really important reasons for this.

Number one being that a lot of people are actually

pretty sleep deprived.

In fact, a couple years ago the CDC put to some statistics

showing that over 40 million people in the US alone

get less than six hours of sleep per night.

That being said, there is one other big reason

why people like to take naps and it has to do

with your circadian rhythm.

That built-in biological mechanism that governs the

ebbs and flows of your energy levels throughout the day.

Most people experience their biggest dip in energy

levels in the middle of the night, around two to four AM

when they are, conveniently, fast asleep.

But there is another pretty big dip in energy levels

in the afternoon around the hours of one to three PM.

Now, the degree to which your energy actually drops

in the afternoon is definitely gonna vary,

both from person to person and based on a ton of different

factors including the quality and amount of sleep

you actually got at night.

But the fact still remains that an afternoon is a great

way to deal with that dip in energy when it happens.

So that brings us to our big question,

how do you take a proper afternoon nap?

One that leaves you feeling revitalized and productive

afterwards instead of like a truck hit you,

basically, which is what I've always experienced.

(upbeat music)

The first tip I have for you has to do with the

duration and timing of your nap.

And we'll start with duration.

For most people the best nap duration out there is

gonna be a 10 to 20 minute nap,

the typical power nap.

The reasoning for this has to do with the sleep cycle,

which I detailed in other videos so I'm not gonna

get too deep into here, but basically sleep happens

in a cycle of about 90 minutes an it goes through

several different stages.

The later stages of the sleep cycle involve slower

brain wave activity and if you're woken up during

one of these stages, you're gonna experience what's

called sleep inertia.

That feeling of grogginess and that desire to go right

back to sleep, which is not what you want from an

afternoon nap.

Now, if you happen to have 90 minutes free in the

afternoon, then by all means, get yourself a 90 minute nap,

get a full revolution through that sleep cycle and

that's actually gonna get you some additional benefits

that a power nap won't get you,

such as memory consolidation.

But I'm guessing that you, like me, and most other people

don't have an entire hour and a half in the afternoon

to spend conked out on a couch.

So 10 to 20 minutes is going to be the best bang

for your buck and you're gonna want to take that

10 to 20 minutes between the hours of one to four PM.

This is because before one PM you're probably not

gonna be all that tired, that afternoon energy dip hasn't

hit you yet, but more important, after four PM

if you take a nap you risk messing with your night's sleep.

So try to stick it within that window.

(upbeat music)

Now at this point some of you probably have a little

nagging question in the back of your mind that has

to do with that 10 to 20 minutes recommendation.

And that's that it takes people quite a white to

fall asleep, right?

And you're correct, the average person takes around

14 minutes to fall asleep at night and some people

definitely take longer.

So given that, wouldn't a 10 to 20 minute power nap

be basically useless if you're not gonna fall asleep

15 minutes into it?

That was my suspicion, as well, but then I came across

an article on Life Hacker called How I Mastered the

Power Nap written by a guy named Daniel Tenor.

And through his experience he realized that he could

gain a lot of benefits from napping even if he didn't

fall asleep.

The act of simply laying down and closing your eyes

for a while and just relaxing can help with those feelings

of fatigue and make you more productive.

And what's more, he noticed that getting rid of that

expectation to fall asleep can actually help you

eventually learn to fall asleep more easily.

And he notes that napping is a skill.

So when you start out you may not be able to fall asleep

or get into that relaxed state,

but after a while you're gonna find it easier

and easier to do.

(upbeat music)

Alright my third tip for you here has to do with

your environment.

And it's gonna come as a surprise to basically nobody

watching this that the best environment for taking

a nap is pretty much the best environment for going

to sleep, as well.

Someplace that's dark and quiet.

But the problem is, unless you work from home,

you probably don't have access to a perpetually

dark and quiet place.

And that's why keeping a couple of simple tools

in your bag can help you out a lot.

For starters you can pick a $5 eye mask at Target

or Walmart and that can make basically any place

dark and as a bonus it will definitely come in handy

if you ever find yourself on a red eye flight,

which I did a couple of weeks ago.

And on the noise front, ear plugs are extremely cheap

and really easy to use, or if you can afford it and

you are able to sleep on your back instead of your side,

noise canceling headphones can definitely be

a good investment.

(upbeat music)

Speaking of headphones, my fourth tip for your here

is to try out an app called Peziz, or Piziz or Pizaz,

I don't know how to pronounce it, but it's a pretty

cool app for helping you take a nap.

At it's core this is an app that generates ambient

soundscapes that are great for falling asleep.

And you also have the option of having a voice

guide you to sleep, kind of like a guided meditation.

And there's a lot of granularity in your options

with that voice.

You can turn it off completely or you can actually have

it fade out after a few minutes and just transition

to that music.

Additionally there's a sleep timer function so you

can tell it you only want to nap for 20 minutes

and it'll wake you up, which will help prevent you

falling into those deeper stages of the sleep schedule

and hitting that sleep inertia.

And that brings us to our last and most advanced tip

which is to try taking a coffee nap which involves

drinking a cup of coffee or something else caffeinated

and them immediately taking a 20 minute power nap.

You're probably thinking to yourself that this

sounds stupid, right?

Because caffeine is going to interfere with the quality

of your sleep.

But actually caffeine takes about 20 minutes to really

kick in in your system so by immediately taking a

power nap right after you drink that cup of coffee

you actually gain the benefits of both a nap and

a cup of coffee.

I've seen several prominent internet people praising

the benefits of this practice and yes I am going to go

with internet people because I can't think of a better

term for it.

But CGP Gray uses it, Tim Ferris uses it,

and studies done in both the UK and Japan have found

that it is more beneficial than a nap alone or

coffee alone.

And to give you a little insight into how this works,

essentially as you go through the day your brain generates

a chemical called adenosine which builds up the

desire to sleep.

Now obviously once you take a nap your brain is going

to clear out some of that adenosine by sleeping,

which is gonna help you feel more energized and get

rid of those feelings of fatigue.

And, as you may have heard me talk about in other

videos, caffeine molecules are actually very similar

in structure to adenosine molecules.

Which means that they actually block those adenosine

receptors preventing the actual adenosine molecules

from plugging into them and making you feel tired.

So you kind of get the best of both worlds.

The nap clears out the adenosine that's already there

and the caffeine prevents more from plugging into

those receptors, making you feel more alert.

Now one word of warning here, if you are gonna try

this technique out, you still do need to be very careful

about building up a dependence to caffeine.

So if you are gonna try taking a coffee nap,

maybe take it easy on the coffee in the earlier part

of the day.

And I do want to note one other thing while I'm

talking about warnings here and basically being

your dad, which is that naps should not be used

as a band-aid.

They should not be used to cover up other bad health

habits that are constantly making you tired.

Aside from getting enough sleep at night you should be

making sure that you get enough exercise,

you should make sure that you go outside and get

sunlight exposure often enough,

make sure that you're drinking enough water,

make sure that your nutrition is good.

Basically everything I talked about in my why you're

always tired video you should be making sure that

you have taken care of in your life.

Provided that you do have those things taken care of,

though, naps can be one more tool in your arsenal

for helping boost your productivity in the middle

of the day.

And as Edison and Dali and many others throughout history

knew well a nap can also help to boost your creativity

and might actually help you solve a tough problem

that you've been stuck on.

And on that note, if you're looking for tough

problems to solve, problems that will improve your critical

thinking skills, your analytical abilities,

and improve your master in both math and science

then you should check out Brilliant.

Brilliant is a learning platform that takes an active

challenge-based approach to teaching math, science,

and computer science.

And throughout their courses on astronomy,

on gravitational physics, calculus, computer algorithms,

computer memory, and many many more you're gonna find

yourself immediately thrown into challenging problems

that, number one, build your interest in the subject

immediately, which often doesn't happen in courses that

start more passively, and build your expertise much

more efficiently.

Additionally, when you find yourself stuck on a

challenging problem in one of their courses,

you're also gonna find an extremely detailed wiki

with tons of example problems details that can help to

flush out your understanding and an active community

of thousands of other learners.

So if you want to start improving your problem solving

abilities, I highly recommend giving Brilliant a try.

You can go over to brilliant.org/thomasfrank to start

learning for free today and the first 83 people who

click on that link in the description down below

will also get 20% off of their annual subscription.

Huge thanks to Brilliant for sponsoring this video

and being a continued supporter of this channel and,

as always guys, thank you so much for watching.

Also it has come to my attention that a lot of you

do not know that I have a podcast.

And I do, I do it with my friend Martin every single week

so if you want more content like this,

but in a longer format definitely check out our

latest episode right here.

Lastly you can find one more video on this channel

right over here.

Smash your face on your phone, do whatever you want,

I'm not your dad, do whatever you want,

I don't care man.

Yeah, video's over.

I'ma go take a nap.