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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

A 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

A 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

Everyone experiences tiredness at work sometimes. At some point (usually around 2:00 PM), you find yourself ready for a nap. Your energy fluctuates naturally throughout the day.

Productivity expert Chris Bailey charted his motivation, focus, and energy levels for 21 days and found that all three tend to spike between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM, and 6:00 and 7:00 PM.[1] For all those highs, he also noticed times when focus, energy, and motivation were nowhere to be found. Chris was tired at work.

Your peak productivity times may be different than Mr. Bailey’s, but the overall shape of your energetic graph would still look like a series of zigzags. The amount of sleep you have, the food you eat, and how you exercise are a few of the factors that cause rises and falls in your energy level.

You’re battling your biology when you don’t take a nap

We can fill up on caffeine and sugar as much as we want, but we’re fighting a natural downturn in energy when we do this. Most people feel fatigued in the latter half of the standard workday. Your tiredness may seem like an inconvenience, but it’s really your body telling you that it needs rest.

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Our bodies operate on a natural clock called a circadian rhythm.[2] This sleep/wake cycle is perfectly adapted to give us adequate sleep over the course of a 24-hour period. Natural light is the primary means that your body uses to assess whether or not you should be asleep.

Much to our collective chagrin, circadian rhythms do not coincide with the average 9 to 5 job. Irregular sleep schedules, the light from electronic devices, and natural light exposure can also affect the cycle. This is why people working the graveyard shift have an increased risk for developing health problems.[3] They must remain awake when their body tells them it’s time for bed, and their sleep schedule is constantly disrupted when they try to stay awake on days off.

Neglecting to follow your circadian rhythms and not taking a nap go against your body’s natural balance.

Taking a nap is natural

We usually feel the most tired between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. This is the post-lunch crash that most of us try to fend off with sugary snacks or espressos. We’re also naturally more inclined to sleep between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM, which is why waking someone up during that time can feel like raising the dead.

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Since most of us are already asleep between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM, we need only concern ourselves with the post-lunch crash. Taking a nap right after lunch helps most people feel more alert, energized, and motivated.

Why you should squeeze a nap into your day

Taking a nap can replenish your brainpower and leave you feeling just as sharp as you were first thing in the morning. You can’t change the fact that your body operates on a circadian rhythm and your energy level rises and falls, but you can pay attention to what your body tells you to do. If you want to feel energized, you need to recharge.

When you don’t take a nap, you struggle against your body’s need for sleep. You may look busy while you’re sitting at your desk, but the simplest tasks will take you much longer to complete. You’ll have a harder time making decisions, and you’ll likely feel a bit grumpy.

Taking a nap may put you out of commission for 20 minutes, but you’ll be refreshed when you wake up. You’ll be able to do more work in a shorter amount of time, and you’ll probably have a better outlook on the rest of your day. That nap is the reset button that you need to do your best work.

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You can reap amazing benefits from taking a 15-20 minute nap.[4] Longer naps put you into different phases of your sleep cycle, and if those are disrupted, you might end up feeling more tired. A nap of 20 minutes is all you need.

The catnap is a low-cost energy booster. It requires so little energy and effort to give yourself this time to refuel, and the return on investment is huge. Some studies suggest that a 20-minute nap has the energy-boosting equivalent of more than 200 mg of caffeine, or two cups of regular coffee (minus the jitters). A power-nap has the potential to add an extra three hours of productivity to your day.

My napping experience at work for the last 2 weeks

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that you bring your sleeping bag and grab a little shuteye anytime you feel lethargic. That’s definitely not going to go over well with your boss. You won’t be napping the entire afternoon away on the clock. You just need to take a 20 minute break after lunch to do what I’ve been doing.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been taking 20-minute naps in my office after lunch. I silence my email notifications and set an alarm so that I wake up at the end of the 20-minute window. I put in my ear buds and listen to this relaxing playlist. I rest on the couch with a small cushion that I keep stashed in my desk.

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At first it felt weird to be taking a nap at the office. It took me about 5 minutes to fall asleep the first few days because I wasn’t used to unplugging in the middle of the day. After a few days, though, I was able to fall asleep soon after I started listening to the relaxing playlist.

Within the first few days of conducting this little experiment on myself, I felt a big difference. After I woke up from my naps, I felt so much more energized. I could concentrate, and I was able to work all the way up until the end of the day instead of watching the clock in anticipation of closing time.

After just one week, I found that my productivity had dramatically improved. I used to feel so inefficient after lunch, but when I implemented the short post-lunch nap, I felt as energetic as I do in the morning. My energy seems to be more evenly distributed throughout the day, and I can be productive for longer.

Give power-napping a try

It may seem counterproductive to take a nap in order to do more, but there’s science behind the catnap. Instead of staring off into space and battling your natural fatigue, take a nap. You may think that you’ll lose 20 minutes of work, but the increased energy and focus you experience after your nap will more than make up for it.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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