The Masters of the Mind
Memory Enhancement: Power Naps


Memory Enhancement: Power Naps

Note: This article was written in a slightly different version for the website and can be accessed at:

Did he just say power naps?

Yes, you read that right.

Power naps.

You know the popular saying: “Do what you love and the money will follow?”

Well, as great as that sounds, I have yet to figure out a way to convince anyone to pay me large sums of cash to do one thing I love to do-take power naps.  But in my never ending studying, reading and research, I have learned something rather remarkable about the memory enhancement benefits of taking power naps.

Now you may have heard of Thomas Edison’s infamous power naps where he’d lay down in his lab with a marble or ball bearing in his hand. He’d doze off for a few minutes—until his hand relaxed enough for him to drop the ball—the sound would wake him and he’d resume working on whatever he’d been doing prior to the power nap.

Many people have mistakenly taken this as a sign of eccentricity or just a quirky part of his creative genius but in actuality power naps have been one of the memory enhancements used by several Presidents (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan & Bill Clinton) as well as Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte, commercial jet pilots, military pilots and brain scientists.

Power naps are often used to compensate for not getting enough sleep the night before or for helping restore energy when fighting off an illness or stress. But there is a less known advantage to power naps that is not widely taught that you can use to considerable advantage.

Brain research has shown that when learning something new, the first six hours after you learn or practice the new skill or subject is critical. This is when the initial memory enhancement or memory consolidation takes place whether you’re asleep or awake. But studies show that the memory consolidation and any memory enhancements your brain does with the material is improved dramatically if you take a power nap of one hour or less during those first 6 hours after studying the new material or practicing the new activity you’re learning.

Important Note: More than one hour of a power nap does NOT improve memory enhancement or memory consolidation.

According to an power naps article by Jane E. Brody a NASA scientist’s study indicated that 24 minute power naps significantly improved a pilot’s alertness & performance on trans-Atlantic flights. This closely matches findings I witnessed first-hand in sleep deprivation studies done with U.S. Air Force pilots when I worked in the flight simulation center.

So, how do you use this information on power naps as one of your memory enhancement strategies?

Here’s two simple ways to add power naps as one of your memory enhancement strategies:

1. Anytime you’re feeling low on energy or run down from a lack of sleep, use part of your lunch hour or break time to find a quiet and preferably dark spot to lay down or recline and relax. Set your watch or cell phone alarm for anywhere from 12-52 minutes. Then just focus on your breathing and letting all the tension in your muscles escape your body. Don’t worry about falling asleep. That’s why you set the alarm. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep either. Forcing yourself is counterproductive. Relaxing is the key.

When your alarm goes off, slowly get up and take some long deep breaths and see how you feel.

The first time I did this years ago, I didn’t notice an immediate effect because I was wanting more sleep. But as the afternoon went on, I noticed I was more alert and had an extra reserve of energy that hadn’t been there before the power nap.

2. Any time you’re learning something new, see if you can sneak in a 12-52 minute power nap in the first 6 hours immediately following your study session or practice session, class or whatever learning situation you’re in. This will help your brain consolidate and for your memory, enhance the information better thus giving you an advantage over others trying to learn the same thing.

Cautionary Note:

This does not work with multiple subjects. For instance, if you’re learning to play guitar but between your guitar lesson and your power nap you also decide to take a cooking lesson, your brain will not consolidate the information efficiently. Stick to one topic or one new skill and your new memory enhancement use of power naps will be a major benefit to you.



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13 Responses to The Masters of the Mind
Memory Enhancement: Power Naps

  1. Eva Palmer says:

    I come from the country where taking a nap is part of the daily routine!
    I just to not like it when I was a kid because I was obliged…but I miss it now if I do not have time for it!

    Quiero dejar de fumar

  2. Clare Delaney says:

    Like some other commenters, I also thought needing / wanting a nap was a function of getting older. Good to know there’s some science behind it, I shall have to start trying this out. Unless I’m on an intensive course, I don’t normally feel like sleeping during the day, so thanks for the advice on not trying to sleep, instead relaxing, that will definitely help!

    Tools for Women – Pink Shovels? No way – they’re very clever! See why…

  3. Dennis Perry says:


    I discovered a few years ago that if I can sneak in a 20-30 minute nap in the middle of my day, such as during my lunch hour, I am far more productive and alert in the afternoon than on those days when I can’t get the nap in. I can really feel it on those days.

    I just thought it was a sign that I’m getting older but perhaps there is a bit of science behind it.

    Thank you

    Rich Life Coach

  4. Jennifer Battaglino says:

    All I kept thinking is that I have always loved power naps…used to take them ALL the time in college.
    Then I laughed when I saw how typically it’s due to the lack of sleep the night before…
    yup, like I said, used to take those power naps ALL the time in college!

    Jennifer Battaglino
    Tinnitus Reduction

  5. I read somewhere that power naps were ineffective and were pushing unhealthy for you… why do naps of 1 hour or under work better in comparison to say, 1 hour 13 minutes?

    Always looking forward to more,

    Mark Hogan

    • Michael says:

      Great question Mark!
      I believe the research showed that too long of a power nap let you drop off into deep REM sleep and therefore left you feeling sluggish when you abruptly awoke from the extended nap.

      I may do a follow up post on this just to address some of the other items I couldn’t squeeze into this post.

      Thanks for asking!


      • Neil Dhawan says:

        I really hope you do a follow-up … I took a “power nap” for the first time today and when I woke up, I felt a bit sluggish. Within minutes I found a new energy and more focus. Hours later, I am still feeling refreshed!

  6. Kevin Bettencourt says:

    18 minutes. Exactly, every time. No need for an alarm. If I have the time that is. The biggest problem I have is they are too effective. If I get one in I’m bouncing around until 1am easy. For some reason I still wake at 5:30 alarm or not. I envy those who can sleep all day carefree. As soon as I wake up I feel like there are a hundred voices screaming at me to do a hundred different things.

  7. Hi Michael,

    Successful people who use power naps access the wisdom and creativity of their unconscious mind well. What a great habit to remind ourselves to relax when we need to.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Finding A Husband Online After 40

  8. Neil Dhawan says:

    Great information, Michael! I’ve heard about power-naps, but have not taken advantage of their benefits. I thought naps were just for old people and cats. My eyes have been open and later this afternoon, they shall be closed … for 12 to 52 minutes :)

    Stay Extraordinary and Do Great Things, Neil

  9. Sonya Lenzo says:

    And I thought that I just LIKED naps! Thanks for giving me another excuse!I thought I was the only one who liked to go to my room during lunch at Boot Camp and sleep for half an hour!I guess the book was right that told us all we really need to know in life we learned in Kindergarten….bring on the milk and cookies, too!
    Sonya Lenzo

  10. Michael, I had no idea that naps could help to lead towards success.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Reading male body language
    Now go implement!

  11. Wow, great information. I had no idea that power naps could be so…well..powerful. I’ll have to give it a try soon, since I seem to be in the habit of staying up too late. :)

    Cherie Miranda

    Holistic Health Expert

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