Think back to nursery school, or even kindergarten. Remember nap time? Wasn’t it the best? You always woke up with a smile and a spring in your step, ready to tackle the rest of the day using building blocks and finger painting. You had all the energy and focus you needed to ace that test putting the proper shaped block in the corresponding hole, right?
It’s a sad day when we finally believe we have “outgrown” napping, and it doesn’t return to most of us until we get much, much older (and wiser). But my question to you is, why? Why do we give up one of life’s simplest pleasures? The benefits of a quick nap are many. Whether at home, or at work, naps should be part of our daily routine.
New research suggests that the times they are a-changin’, and naps are making their way back into adult lives. Many sleep researchers are finding that napping at work is becoming both common and encouraged. We all know, and hear frequently, how important getting enough sleep is to our health, concentration, and productivity, but that doesn’t just mean sleeping eight hours at night.
Napping. At work. A brilliant idea and tool that you can use to your advantage.
Naps Are Not Just for Children and the Lazy
We all have this incorrect notion that naps are only for either babies, or lazy adults. But nothing could be further from the truth. Fight the stereotype! Embrace a napping routine at work, and reap the benefits of better afternoon productivity and heightened concentration. Now, I’m not suggesting you curl up on the conference table during a staff meeting (time and place, people), but easing it in to your coffee or lunch break should be doable for most people.
So long as you’re not “sleeping on the job” per se (when you should be working on something), there is no risk of getting in trouble. You may get some snickering and good-natured ribbing from colleagues, but so what? You’re recharged and ready to impress. They’re tired and counting the minutes until quitting time. Who’s silly now?
Length Does Matter
Too much of a good thing, right? When it comes to an afternoon nap, you want to get right in the sweet spot of time to benefit ratio. And the rule of thumb here is that shorter is better than longer when it comes to napping. Keep it short, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes seems to be ideal.
In fact, new studies have shown increased scores on cognitive tests after just a ten minute nap, but those scores go down as the length of the nap goes up. Once you hit 30 minutes, there is absolutely no increase in test score, and it actually drops in some cases.
Short but sweet. 10-15 minutes and you’re refreshed and raring to go.
Peaks and Valleys
Every one of us has a natural rhythm of ups and downs throughout the day. The fancy, technical term is circadian rhythm.
Everyone has a circadian dip sometime in the afternoon when their energy levels plummet and/or disappear entirely.
In order to find the optimal time to take your 15 minute power nap, try tracking your energy levels for a few days. Just jot down when you feel the highs and lows during your waking hours. In all likelihood, you’ll notice that the afternoon valley generally occurs during a relatively small window at roughly the same time each day.
That’s your sweet, perfect time to close your eyes. Nap accordingly. You’ll be amazed how you feel.
The Right Tool for the Job
Whenever we do something “worthwhile”, we use whatever tool or item we need to do it fast, efficiently, and correct. The same should be true for napping. Even as kids, we had a mat, blanket, and maybe a stuffie or two.
Take it seriously. Think of it as a work task on par with writing a report for your boss. To do that, you’d have finished research, organized your notes, sat down with your laptop and opened whatever word processor you happen to use.
For your power nap, bring whatever you need to make it perfect. A travel neck pillow. Sleep mask to shut the light out (remember that too much light is one of the most powerful sleep inhibitors). Mini alarm clock set for 10-15 minutes. Relaxing music, sounds of nature, or other white noise.
Set yourself up for napping success.
Coffee For All
Drink coffee! The latest research suggests that a few cups per day won’t hurt you…and could even be beneficial (in addition to the simple energy boost). A cup of coffee after a successful 10 minute power nap doubles your energy level and concentration power (okay…maybe it only feels like it’s doubled, but isn’t that just as good?!).
Avoid taking medication for something that coffee can do for you – give you a boost of energy quickly and easily when you need it. Too many people look to pharmaceuticals and chemically-laced energy drinks. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
A well-timed and short nap, combined with the occasional cup of joe, and you’ll be racing up that corporate ladder while your colleagues are groggily trying to keep pace. Win the race.
So much of what we do as children is still great for us as adults. Napping is just the latest example. I would also like to see a return to the “do over” whenever we don’t like the result of something…but that one may be wishful thinking.