You check your watch. It’s 2:30 pm on the dot. You yawn, rub your eyes and get up to make yourself a cup of coffee. Right on cue. A daily occurrence, Monday through Friday, the same time each day.
We’ve all fallen victim to the afternoon slump. You know, that time of day when your energy level plummets 50%, and your eyes glaze over as you re-read the same email three times in a row. You’ve lost all focus except one fixation – a nap. Oh, how you would kill for a nap.
In a study of 1,139 American workers, 76% percent felt tired multiple days a week. Fifteen percent reported dozing off on the job at least once a week. Yikes!
Chronic tiredness is a side effect of a larger issue – lack of sleep. Roughly one-third of the adult population in the US is falling short when it comes to rest, logging less than seven hours a night.
To remedy sleepless nights, some turn to caffeine, others to exercise, and then there are those who nap.
The Rise of Power Naps
Naps have often received a bad rap for being “slothful” and “lazy.” But come to find out, some of the world’s greatest leaders believed in the power of a daytime snooze. That’s right ladies and gents, even Albert Einstein himself took naps.
But it doesn’t stop there. Some of the most successful companies of the 21st century are dedicating office space to designate nap areas. Online mattress company, Casper, even built an entire “Dreamery” in the middle of New York City, where workers can book a nap pod for 45-minutes in the middle of the workday.
This napping phenomenon begs the question, why would companies like Uber, Facebook, Casper, and Google, find naps a worthy investment of time and resources? According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep costs the US $63 billion annually in lost production.
There may be more benefits to napping at work than meets the eye.
The Benefits of Power Napping
Naps aside, sleep is integral to our overall health and wellness. Adequate sleep aids in processing memories, productivity, cardiovascular health, tissue repair and much more! If we don’t get enough sleep, our quality of life suffers.
There are ample benefits to a mid-afternoon siesta.
For one, power naps boost your alertness. They jerk you out of that afternoon slump we know all too well. Even a six-minute rest has been proven to improve performance and learning. No wonder Google is implanting nap pods throughout their office.
Power naps also improve your memory. If you are one of those people re-reading the same email over and over, there is hope for you! Research shows that a short nap can improve information retrieval fivefold. Not a bad perk.
If that’s not enough, here are some additional benefits of power-napping:
The short-term benefits of power napping include:
- Sharpened cognitive skills
- Increased creativity
- Elevated energy levels
- Improved mathematical and logical reasoning
- Increased reaction time
- Improve motor skills
Long-term, power napping regularly can:
- Reduce stress
- Decrease the risk of heart disease
- Aid in weight management
The Science Behind a Perfect Nap
Before you start a napping revolution in the office, here’s what you need to know about having the most effective nap time.
How long should you nap for?
By definition, a power nap is a nap that ends before you enter deep sleep – stage three of our sleep cycle. A single sleep cycle takes place in five stages and typically lasts 90 to 120 minutes. Here’s a quick overview:
This sleep stage of very light sleep only lasts 5-10 minutes. During this stage, your muscle activity begins to slow. It’s in this stage your muscles may twitch.
It’s in stage two of sleep where your breathing and heart rate slow. You’ll want to wake up from your power nap after stage two!
Stages Three and Four
Stages three and four are where you enter deep, slow-wave, restorative sleep. It’s in these stages that you are harder to wake. During this stage, your body begins repairing muscles and tissues, releasing your growth hormones and boosting your immune system.
Stage Five or REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep
REM sleep occurs roughly 90 minutes after you fall asleep. It is during REM sleep that you have dreams. During this sleep stage, brain activity is similar to operation during your waking hours.
With this in mind, the ideal length of a power nap is anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Sara Mednick, a psychologist from the University of California – Riverside, and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, recommends power naps lasting between 10 and 20 minutes to boost alertness and concentration, to elevate your mood, and to improve your motor skills.
If you are looking to take a longer nap, make sure to allow enough time to get through an entire sleep cycle. Otherwise, you’ll experience sleep inertia.
Sleep inertia is when you wake up groggy and disoriented wondering what year it is. Most sleep experts recommend taking shorter naps that end before you enter the deep sleep stages, which are more difficult to rouse from. But don’t write off an extended doze. They are said to aid in memory processing and creativity. The biggest challenge is finding that much time in the day.
The time of day optimal for napping?
If you are like most, you are probably itching for a nap around mid-afternoon. Ideally, your power nap should take place before 1 pm and 4 pm. Naps anytime after 4 pm run the risk of disrupting your regular nighttime sleep – a big no-no.
To Nap or Not to Nap, That Is the Question
To nap or not to nap. That is the question.
Napping is not for everyone. Some people, no matter how long the nap, won’t be able to sleep at night if they take a nap in the afternoon. However, in a country constantly on-the-go, with companies demanding more and more of their employees, it’s not far-fetched for businesses to promote employee well-being in the form of sleep.
A Word of Warning:
If you suddenly feel like they need more naps and have no apparent reason for increased sleepiness, you may want to take a hard look at your regular sleep schedule. Are you having trouble getting a full night’s sleep? Perhaps you’ve had your mattress five years too long, and it no longer supports your sleep habits.
To aid in improving your sleep quality, you might consider adding relaxing elements to your bedrooms as an essential oil diffuser, ambient lighting or a white noise machine. Anything that improves your sleep quality is worth the investment.
If naps are out of the question for you, there are some alternatives to getting the energy boost you need that don’t include sleep or caffeine. WebMD recommends getting a dose of Vitamin D from the sun, taking a short walk to get your blood pumping, eating a piece of chocolate or doing some light stretching.
All in all, naps can offer some significant benefits for those of us who can fall asleep and wake up when the alarm rings in 20 minutes. Indulge in the tranquillity of a daytime snooze knowing you’re doing your body good.