It is now generally accepted that a short sleep or nap in the afternoon will boost your productivity and get you raring to go again. The southern Mediterranean countries have known and practised this since ancient times. Some large companies, such as Google and Apple, have nap-friendly policies. Other companies put napping pods in the communal areas so that taking a power nap is accepted.
According to NASA, you can boost your productivity by about 35 percent if you take a 26-minute nap. Don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be exactly 26 minutes!
If you want to do it privately, you can go to a napping spa where you will get a 20 minute nap for about $17. The important thing is to prevent the short nap from becoming a longer, deeper sleep (slow wave sleep). That might mean you would wake up feeling rather groggy and bad-tempered. This is why 20-45 minutes is usually considered ideal. Some experts say that longer than 30 minutes is unproductive, however.
There are many studies that list the benefits of napping. These include being more alert, reduced fatigue, faster reaction times, better memory, enhanced mood and sharper logical reasoning. Not to mention more efficient decision making. All these without the need for yet another coffee!
If your company does not have napping rooms, you may find that an inexpensive device called a Dream Helmet (about $30), which has a pillow, mask and earplugs, will help you have a short nap. Here are 9 ways to make sure that you are going to get the maximum benefit from your nap.
1. Choose your best time to nap
“You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner… Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one — well, at least one and a half, I’m sure.”– Winston Churchill
Everyone has different sleep patterns and sleep-wake rhythms. These rise and fall throughout the day. You have to work out what is best for you. If you suffer from insomnia, a nap may not be a workable solution.
If your sleep is regular and you feel that you are slowing down and drowsy in the mid afternoon, then that is fine, as a nap will not interfere with your night sleep schedule. Aim for a short nap. Anything more than 45 minutes could make you feel even worse when you wake up!
2. Remove your shoes
Taking off your shoes is just one thing you should do to get comfortable. Maybe you do not have your pajamas with you, but loosening any tight clothes will be a great way to relax.
3. Please do not disturb
Make sure that those around you know that this is your time out and that it should be respected. Ensure all your devices are switched off and you are in a quiet spot. In the workplace, this may well be impossible; but if you are working from home, it is certainly easier.
4. Sit down or lie down?
Well, you are not a horse so you cannot take your power nap standing up! Lying down will help you relax and sleep. Even if you do not actually doze off, there are still benefits from a quiet wakefulness. Napping while sitting is also beneficial although it is better to lie down, if you can.
5. Use a blanket, if you have one
Blankets give you a sense of security and comfort. But there is another reason why we should cover up. As you sleep, your body temperature tends to go down and metabolism slows. Without a blanket, you may feel cold and wake up.
6. Be careful with wake-up gimmicks
Normally, you will sleep as long as you need and it is best, in my experience, to avoid using an alarm clock or other gimmicks. If you have appointments, however, set the alarm on your phone.
7. Darkness helps you nap
Aim for a dark spot if you can. Any light pollution interferes with the sleep process, as has been shown in scientific studies. Always have your eye mask handy, just in case you do not find a dark place.
8. Learn to feel less guilty
“Sleep is the food of the brain”- David Gozal.
In the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition, sleeping on the job was a no-no. Now all that has changed, thankfully. Learn to get over any guilt complexes about sleeping on the job. You are merely recharging your batteries, and your brain will be in top gear when you wake up.
9. Drink less coffee
Coffee is great for that caffeine shot that keeps you alert and gives you more energy. But the negative health effects from too much of it are well known and documented. These include jitters and anxiety. It can also keep you too hyped up so that when you want to nap, you will find it difficult to nod off.
Have you managed to take a nap at work and did it really increase your productivity? Tell us about what happened in the comments below.
Featured photo credit: A well deserved power nap/Chris Lawrence via flickr.com