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The Art Of The 'Power Nap'

When we "spring forward" an hour this Sunday morning, most of us will lose a little sleep. It might be worth it for a summer of longer days, but sleep is as important to health as diet and exercise. James Maas, psychology professor and author of Power Sleep who coined the phrase "power nap," tells CBS This Morning some things you can do to make sure you are getting enough sleep.

Maas estimates that 100 million Americans are "moderately to severely sleep deprived, so much so that it affects the way they perform on the job, the way they parent and how they act as a spouse."

Before Thomas Edison invented the electric light in 1879, Americans were sleeping an average ten hours a night. Now, says Mass, a third of us are getting six or less hours.

"We're a nation of walking zombies," says Maas. "Most Americans need between eight hours and eight hours and 15 minutes. With this daylight's savings time switch, you're going to be even more sleep deprived."

So, what can you do? Maas advises a 20-minute power nap during the day. "By limiting it to 20 minutes you will not go into delta, or deep, sleep and wake up foggy, worse than if you hadn't taken the nap at all," he says. "By limiting it to 20 minutes you're not going to have nocturnal insomnia, you'll be able to get to bed" at your regular time.

To take a good 20-minute snooze at work, he recommends you have on hand:

  • A mattress that you can unsnap and roll out on your office floor.
  • A travel pillow (smaller than a regular pillow).
  • An alarm clock that has a nap feature and can be automatically set for 20 minutes.

How should we change our habits so that we can feel more rested? Maas says it's usually a matter of lifestyle decisions. Here are some ways to get more sleep:
  • Determine your sleep needs.
  • Keep to a regular schedule of sleep time and waking-up time.
  • Get continuous sleep.

If that last tip doesn't sound easy, try these:
  • No caffeine after 2 pm.
  • No liquor within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
  • If you are travelling, make sure the hotel you choose pays attention to your sleep needs by providing good temperature control, a good mattress and pillows, and quiet.
  • Make up for lost sleep. If you lose some sleep, make up for it the next night by going to bed earlier or by taking a power nap during the day.

  • Maas has this quick quiz to help you determine whether you are sleep deprived:
    • Do you fall asleep the minute your head hits the pillow?
    • Are you ever sleepy after a heavy meal, a low dose of alcohol, a boring meeting, or sitting in a warm room?
    • Do you sleep extra on weekends?
    • Are you tired or stressed during the work week?

    And finally, here's some advice for those "type-A" personalities who are too wound up to nap:
    • Just close your eyes and be still for a few minute.
    • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation.
    • Learn how to relax and clear your mind enough to fall asleep--especially for a nap of only about 20 minutes.

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