As kids we dreaded them, but as adults, many of us crave them: naps, specifically power naps. The idea behind a power nap is simple: You fall asleep for a short time and wake up feeling more rested.
For some of us, run-of-the-mill naps aren’t the golden ticket to feeling more rested we may need. We either sleep too long or wake up feeling even more tired, defeating their purpose.
A better option may be the Navy SEAL power nap — a sleep hack with a twist [or lift as you’ll see] practiced by some members of one of the world’s elite military groups.
What Is the Navy SEAL Power Nap, and How Long Is It?
Military service members often face sleep challenges. Most tend to sleep less than the minimum 7 hours recommended for adults, especially when they’re deployed.
This is often the case for members of the U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land teams (commonly referred to as Navy SEALs). The highly trained SEALs complete their missions with stealth and adeptness and often think and stay on their feet for long periods of time — even with little sleep to keep them propped up and alert in their tactical boots.
This calls on their resourcefulness to get enough rest. Thus, the short sleep hack known as the Navy SEAL power nap was born.
- Lying supine (on your back with your face and body facing upward or forward) on a flat surface such as your floor, couch or bed
- Raising your feet above your heart level (e.g., with your legs propped up on the seat of your couch or with pillows)
- Closing your eyes and taking slow, deep breaths to help your mind and body relax and lull you to sleep
- Power napping for 8 to 12 minutes
This style of napping has trended for years on social media outlets such as TikTok. Numerous videos with the hashtag #8minutenaps have garnered thousands of views.
What Are the Benefits of Short Naps?
While longer naps may pose problems, short-but-sweet power naps such as this one can:
- Help you feel less sleepy and more alert
- Lift your mood
- Improve your reaction time
- Enhance short-term memory
- Help you focus and think more clearly
These are health benefits the Navy SEALs and everyone else can appreciate. The power nap hack isn’t a cure-all for not getting enough restorative sleep or excessive sleepiness. But it may help fuel your daily energy reserves just enough to help you get through your day, especially on days when it feels like you’re running on fumes.
Napping may even help athletes perform better if they take short naps before they have to practice or compete. This is because a power nap can help boost energy and bolster physical performance.
And if you’re active like the SEALs or athletes, raising your legs above heart level can help:
- Improve blood flow to and from your legs and feet
- Ease swelling, tenderness and pressure in your legs and feet from standing too long or working them out too hard
- Drain lactic acid and other metabolites that build up, cause muscle soreness and break down muscle tissue after intense activity
You’ll likely appreciate the perks of this power nap if you don’t feel rested and restored from the previous night’s sleep. But even if you aren’t sleep-deprived, the Navy SEAL power nap can give you that added boost of wakefulness you need to function with all your cylinders primed and revved up to go.
What Are the Risks of SEAL Power Naps?
This is not to say that such a nap is without risks. Napping supine with your legs raised may cause some discomfort, especially if you have back or leg issues. Moreover, napping can disrupt your sleep schedule.
No doubt your body and brain will thank you for the extra bit of snooze time. But the short amount of rest you enjoy now can make falling asleep later that much harder, especially if you have a sleep disorder such as insomnia or tend to have trouble falling or staying asleep.
This is especially true if you nap too close to your bedtime. In general, sleep experts recommend taking a short snooze before 2 p.m. Late-day naps are more likely to result in deep and prolonged sleep, making it harder for you to wake up from your nap and fall asleep in a timely manner at bedtime.
Naps can leave you feeling drowsy, dazed and disoriented upon waking. Even short naps can leave you feeling this way.
This feeling [known as sleep inertia] usually fades somewhat quickly, but it can pose problems if you need to bring your physical and mental A-game soon after you nap.
Regular napping may also raise your risk for heart health issues. In a study involving more than 350,000 participants, researchers found that adults who took frequent naps had a 12% higher risk of getting high blood pressure along with a 24% higher risk of stroke.
The authors of the large observational study, published by the American Heart Association, note that napping isn’t necessarily unhealthy. Instead, the need to do so frequently may be due to a pattern of poor sleep quality.
Do Sleep Experts Support This Method of Power Napping?
Although this nap hack is hugely popular on social media, there is no research to back it up or disprove it as of now. If you’re generally healthy, it likely can’t hurt. Nevertheless, it’s best to talk with your doctor if you have any health conditions, physical limitations or injuries that affect power napping in this manner.
Other Tips for Taking Short Naps
To make the most of your Navy SEAL power nap, try the following:
- Turn off the lights, draw the curtains or wear an eye mask to block out lights and sights that distract your eyes.
- Wear earplugs to block out sounds or earbuds to listen to soft and dozy music.
- Set your alarm for 8 to 12 minutes. Studies show 10 minutes is an ideal length of time for power naps.
- Nap earlier rather than later (e.g., midway between your usual wake time and bedtime).
- Get cozy and comfortable. Make sure your sleep space supports rest.
Most of all, clear your thoughts and put your worries to bed for the time being. If you’re feeling tense, try to find ways to ease your stress before you sleep. Stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, may help.
- “Does Napping During the Day Affect Your Sleep at Night” via Sleep Foundation
- “Napping Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Adults via Mayo Clinic
- “Should You Take Power Naps” via Cleveland Clinic
- “Sleeping & Napping Tips” via California State University Maritime Academy
- “Sleep in the Military” via Sleep Foundation
- “Study Shows Link Between Frequent Naps and High Blood Pressure” via American Heart Association
- “The Effect of Post-Lunch Napping on Mood, Reaction Time, and Antioxidant Defense During Repeated Sprint Exercise” via Biology of Sport