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Last Updated on December 17, 2020

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 April 30, 2021

How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Coffee is a way of life for many employees. Caffeine gives them the boost they need to help them get through the day. But as we know, like sugar highs, eventually the caffeine boosts wear off. The million-dollar question at the office for many people should be googling is, “how to stay awake at work without caffeine?”

According to Gallup, a staggering 85% of workers are “not engaged” at work.[1] That means the majority of the workforce around the world view their work negatively or are doing the minimum required to keep their jobs. As a result, it should come as no surprise that people are getting tired at the office.

Perhaps, you’re like one of my clients. Every morning he starts off his day like many people all over the world. He heads into the kitchen, pops in a capsule in his Nespresso machine, and then sits in front of the TV while sipping his gourmet coffee. Then, throughout the day, he’ll have one or two more cups, especially if the Sandman is visiting.

According to The National Safety Council, 43% of workers are sleep-deprived so it’s not uncommon to see people with a cup of joe on their desk.[2] Add in the meetings that seem to drag on and the hours we spend in front of a computer screen and the battle for our focus is very real.

Caffeine has become the drug of choice for millions. People use coffee to jolt themselves back into focus. Starbucks has even made coffee hip and cool, not to mention pricey. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Thankfully, there are better, healthier ways to stay awake.

Here are some tips on how to stay awake at work without coffee.

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1. H2O

We all know the importance of drinking water. What most people don’t realize is the effect it can have on our focus and productivity. If you’ve ever been on a 6-hour plane ride or longer, upon landing, your body feels heavy. The reason is dehydration. The adrenaline from the excitement of heading to Disneyland with our family can mask our lethargy for only so long. Once it wears off, our body will feel it.

The same thing happens at the office. The more dehydrated our body is the worse its functions. Headaches are largely linked to dehydration. Hydrating our body has numerous health benefits that are relatively unseen including the elimination of toxins from our bloodstream, improved digestion, lubrication of our joints and eyes, and increased concentration.

Just how much water should we be drinking? According to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should drink about 2.7 liters a day, while men should drink about 3.7 liters.[3]

Despite knowing we should drink more water, many people don’t. Why is that? Simply put—boredom. It’s lacking in taste. Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, or Monster Energy are what people turn to instead. It doesn’t hurt that they have caffeine in them either, giving them a double shot of energy in the form of sugar and caffeine.

How do we combat this? Easy, by making water “cool.” Liven up your water by adding ice cubes made out of 100% fruit juice or add wedges of fruits to your water infusing them with a hint of your favorite flavors.

Suggestion: Download an app or set up alarms to notify you throughout the day to drink water. Your body will thank you.

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2. Good Night’s Sleep

Like water, this should go without saying. It should, but with 43% of workers being sleep-deprived, it needs to be said, over and over again. Too many people shortchange their sleep because of work or fun.

For most people, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything they want to. Burning the midnight oil before a big presentation or project is understandable but long-term, our body and performance will suffer if we push our body too hard.

A few years ago, the WSJ coined the term “sleepless elite,” referring to a small group of people that only need a short amount of sleep every night. Scientists estimate they make up only about 1% of the population.[4] You might be one of them. Only you know how effective you can be on a few hours of sleep. I’m not one of them, and chances are likely you aren’t either. I’ve only ever met one person who fit the bill, but the impact it is having on their body is still unknown.

We are all unique. Each of our bodies functions slightly differently, but for most people, seven to eight hours a day is needed for optimum performance. But it’s not just about quantity but also quality, which is why it’s important to have a 30-minute cool-down before getting into bed.

Turn off all screens. If possible, switch to yellow light. If not, simply turn down the lights. Turn off notifications on your phone. Do everything you can to make your environment conducive to sleep. Finally, reading a chapter or two in a good book to make yourself sleepy is a great way to get ready for bed. Doing these simple things will dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.

Suggestion: Create a daily cool-down routine to ensure the quality of your sleep.

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3. 80% Rule

In Japan, there’s an expression, “8 bun me,” which refers to eating until you’re 80% full. It’s actually a stroke of genius, especially for those looking to get more done at work. Knowing how to stay awake at work without caffeine is a real challenge for many people, but adjusting your diet is a great place to start.

When I first moved to Japan, I often found meals to be much smaller than those in America. I’m not going to lie, it bugged me at first. I found myself still hungry after lunch. Over time though, my body adjusted.

The problem with a full stomach is that it pulls blood away from our brain, which is why many people feel sleepy after lunch. Not feeling full after lunch will allow you to operate at a higher level at the office.

Most of us have been taught to have a light breakfast, a more robust lunch, and a big meal for dinner. Ironically, it should be the other way around. The problem is a big meal for dinner is something most people don’t want to change. Therefore, we should go to work on the other two meals.

For many people in the West, breakfast consists of a banana, cereal, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So, by the time lunch rolls around, it’s not surprising they’re hungry. The large lunch leads them to be sleepy in the afternoon. Instead, consider having a more substantial breakfast that will see you through the day. That way, lunchtime can be nothing more than a snack, allowing your mind to stay sharp until you finish up for the day.

Suggestion: A few small changes in your diet can lead to improved productivity at the office.

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4. Breathing

Breathing is another undervalued technique to boosting our performance. Patrick McKeown’s The Oxygen Advantage, James Nestor’s Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, and Wim Hof’s The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential all delve into the power of breathing and oxygen.

Brendon Burchard, the bestselling author of Life’s Golden Ticket: A Story About Second Chances and the creator of High-Performance Academy, says, “I don’t hope to have energy. I generate energy.” He does this through a series of breathing and physical exercises and it’s remarkable how effective these are in helping us boost performance.

Suggestion: Take the time to learn how to breathe as it can an effective way to boost energy or relax your body.

5. Reward Your Body

Another long-term solution to help us stay awake at work is by rewarding our bodies. Our bodies work hard for us. The daily grind can take its toll on our bodies over time, which is why it’s critical to reward our bodies.

Massages are an excellent way to reduce pain and muscle soreness while improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Nice warm baths can also achieve similar results. Massages and baths help battle insomnia, reduce injuries and anxiety, help with joint pain, and much more.[5][6]

Suggestion: Schedule regular massages into your month.

Bottom Line

Learning how to stay awake at work is a real challenge for millions of people the world over. Many turn to caffeine in the form of coffee to give them the boost they need, but it’s a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Instead, we should focus on changing a few of our daily habits. The results will astound you and with any luck, you’ll be able to kiss the caffeine habit goodbye.

More Tips on How to Stay Awake at Work

Featured photo credit: Ilya Pavlov via unsplash.com

Reference

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