Optimize your naps
It is fabled that Leonardo da Vinci used to take multiple 20-minute naps throughout the day to charge his creativity. Brainiac Albert Einstein was also a napper. It’s taken hundreds of years, but recent research seems to back up this approach. Naps have been shown to improve energy, productivity, cognitive functioning, and of course athletic performance. In a study at Stanford University, tennis players improved their serve accuracy following 5 weeks of "nap training." That's the kind of training I'd like to do more of!
But there is a right way to nap and a wrong way to nap. During the night, we cycle through 90-minute sleep cycles. In 90 minutes, we pass through Rapid Eye Movement stage (REM), stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, then back through stage 3, 2, 1 and REM again. Stages 3 and 4 are when we are in our deepest sleep. This is when we recover our energy levels, when our nervous system recovers and regenerates, and when our muscles and tissues are repaired.
The problem is if you sleep between 30 and 60 minutes, you’re waking up in a deeper stage of sleep and you’ll probably feel worse than you did before the nap!
So if you want to have a rejuvenating nap, go for a short 20 minute power nap so that you wake up before falling into the deeper levels of sleep. Or alternately, allow yourself the full 90 minutes to complete all the sleep cycles. This is the option you’ll probably want to choose on a competition day or if you have multiple workouts in one day.