Why every traveller should learn how to power nap

Struggling to adjust to a new time zone? A quick 15-minute doze could be just what the doctor ordered...

By Chris Ashton, July 26 2022
 Why every traveller should learn how to power nap

Jet lag is an experience which unites frequent travellers the world over. We’ve all endured it at some point. And while there’s no cure, you can tap into a free and underrated tool to jumpstart your internal battery and get back on the road in no time: the power nap.

Favoured by renowned minds from politicians to academics and artists – Sir Winston Churchill and Salvidor Dali were just two devotees of the daytime doze – the humble nap is like a fast-charge for your brain, and its benefits can be felt in as little as 15 minutes.

As regular travellers know, jet lag occurs when your regular sleep patterns are disturbed, often by long flights or crossing multiple time zones. Irritability and poor concentration are just two of the common symptoms.

But rather than staring at the ceiling all night or staggering around Paris feeling like a zombie, a quick nap could be just what your body needs.

Dr Stephen Jasper from Torrens University Australia swears by this energising technique, with the ability to enjoy a well-timed snooze or siesta almost like a superpower for frequent travellers.

Power naps your most valuable tool

After criss-crossing the world and experiencing his fair share of restless nights and fuzzy-brain days in a former career, Dr Jasper devoted his PhD to studying the effects of time zone differences and jet lag, earning him the nickname of ‘The Jet Lag Guy’.

“What emerged was we know what jet lag is and how to treat it, yet no one seems to be doing it,” explains Dr Jasper, before reminiscing about a gruelling three-day Sydney to Buenos Aires return trip – and resulting jet lag – that prompted his investigations.

Jet lag occurs when the body’s circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack, forcing them to readjust.
Jet lag occurs when the body’s circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack, forcing them to readjust.

Some of the chief weapons in our jet lag-beating arsenal are pre-trip sleep adjustments, light therapy, and melatonin, plus simply powering through the day until you can sleep at the right local time. Dr Jasper believes power naps deserve a place on that list too.

“One of the things that happens when travelling is a ‘sleep deficit’. Having a power nap can really help that. Those short, sharp naps – even ones that only go for 15 to 20 minutes – are like a lightning recharge for your batteries.”

When shifting through multiple time zones, Dr Jasper suggests a quick nap can help boost your mental clarity, as well as improve your cognitive performance and logical reasoning.

Finding the sweet spot

Sleep is a very individual thing. Knowing and understanding your own sleep cycle and working with that, rather than trying to fight it or modify it, is the secret, according to Dr Jasper.

The post postprandial slump between 2pm and 4pm, commonly referred to as 3:30-itis – yes, it’s a real thing – is considered the best time for a power nap, as it’s not too early or late in the day.

“In terms of the sweet spot, I’d recommend you probably wouldn’t go over an hour, as there’s a danger your nap can turn into a marathon. 15-20 minutes is a good, refreshing nap.”

That said, everyone’s needs are different and it takes trial and error to learn what works for you.

Rather than go it alone in the quest to find your personal napping sweet spot, there are several power nap apps specifically designed to help you perfect this healthy habit, and you can even try them at home before you jet off.

Some popular power nap apps include:

Tips to successfully power nap

Whether you’re aiming for a quick jumpstart or a longer one hour reinvigoration, there are a few essential ways to improve your chances of getting some shut-eye during the day:

  • Choose your time carefully – early to mid afternoon is the general recommendation
  • Make the space as dark as possible; sunlight streaming in only keeps you awake
  • Try not to nap when you’re ravenously hungry, or after you’ve just had a big lunch
  • Get the temperature levels right – as Goldilocks says, ‘not too hot or too cold’

Most importantly, set an alarm. Waking up five hours later is not going to be much help.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 501

I envy anyone that can switch on or off their sleep mode.

There was a fad involving lounges with sleep capsules for hire as part of a news feature, I think it was in NY or some US cities, 10-20 years ago but I guess it never caught on as much. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Oct 2016

Total posts 3

Having just arrived back from Europe, I've been trying short powernaps. They certain do help and I would agree with the 15-20 minute limit. My "trick" is to avoid lying flat to prevent falling too deeply asleep. Find a reclined chair or comfy sofa and sit mostly upright.  Good luck!


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