To get the benefit of a refreshing power nap, you don't need to fall asleep. It's enough to relax yourself and let your thoughts drift off, even while remaining mostly awake. If you can do this properly (it does take some practice), you can power nap even if you find it impossible to fall asleep quickly. I learned how to nap when I was starting my first start-up, while still working full time at Accenture. It was a pretty hard time for me, and I was constantly tired. Learning to nap allowed me to keep performing in both my job (during the daytime) and my start-up (in the morning and evening), despite my chronic lack of sleep. It's great to be able to magically transition from a state of mind-numbing exhaustion into a fresh, wakeful mind, in just 20 minutes.
I think most people should be able to get from "completely unable to nap" to "can nap in most circumstances" within a few months. It took me about 6 months to get it consistently right without any hypnotic tracks, earplugs, or other aides.
The hardest hurdle to get across is, I believe, just realizing that napping isn't sleeping, and that you can learn to nap even if it takes you ages to fall asleep. Hopefully this article got that point across.
Next, you need to learn what to aim for. Until you've had a successful nap-like experience, it's pretty hard to practice it. The way I learned that was with Pzizz. You may find different, perhaps better ways to learn that. Some ideas include meditation classes and hypnotherapy recordings. There are also a number of binaural beat applications on the iPhone, including some free ones, but I haven't yet found one that worked to my satisfaction (that said, I haven't looked that hard).
The best way I can describe the feeling of napping is that you lie down or sit somewhere, and first focus on relaxing. Relax your muscle groups one by one, from your neck all the way down to your toes. Take a good minute or two to do this properly. Then finally you relax your thoughts. Let them drift off. It's important to gently nudge those thoughts towards more relaxing topics – you won't nap very well if you're rehearsing a conversation with the boss – but at the same time, they need to largely drift on their own. Keep your eyes closed, your body relaxed, and let your thoughts meander from subject to subject without much order.
This is a guest post by Daniel Tenner, CTO and co-founder of Woobius, a web-based collaboration hub for architects, engineers, and designers. Woobius is his second start-up. Daniel spent four years consulting at Accenture with large investment banks. One day, he decided that there were more exciting and fun things to do in the world, and went start-upping instead. He holds a Masters in Physics from Oxford University. He also blogs at danieltenner.com and on various other sites.