We’ve all experienced the dreaded afternoon slump. A few minutes or a couple of hours after lunch, you start feeling sluggish, unable to focus on work. Words and numbers start swirling around, and your eyes begin to feel heavy. This is your body telling you that you need a nap - a power nap.
How long should your power nap be?
Experts suggest a shuteye no longer than 30 minutes. Nap longer than that and you risk entering a deep sleep stage, which can make you groggy upon waking up. For many, a power nap of 10 to 20 minutes is enough to recharge their bodies and refresh their minds.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of taking a power nap and how to incorporate it into your work day.
In some cultures, napping during the day is an accepted and even encouraged part of daily life. The Spanish take a siesta after the midday meal.
A study done by the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians showed that a 30-minute nap after lunch can help in improving memory and alertness as well as in reducing stress.
The Japanese also take work day naps seriously, and even have a word for sleeping at work. “Inemuri,” which when translated roughly means “sleeping while present.”
In most other countries however, sleeping on the job - or simply being drowsy on the desk - is often taken as a sign of laziness and weakness, of poor time management, of the inability to cope with the demands of work.
In the American culture for example, people believe that productivity is a result of effort - work hard enough and you will become productive. However, according to psychologist Ron Friedman, the reality is that humans have a biological or innate need to rest, the same as our need for food and water.
Fortunately, recent studies are now showing how restorative napping can be.
Power napping during the work day has been found to improve performance and increase productivity, prompting companies to put on-the-job snoozing in a more positive light.
Companies such as Google, Nike, Zappos and Huffington Post even have designated rooms for sleeping. By being open to the idea that a power nap can contribute to increased productivity, these companies are now starting to eliminate the stigma around napping at work.
Let’s hope that other companies would soon follow suit.
No, but there are cases when taking a power nap can help improve performance.
For example, if extreme drowsiness is preventing you from focusing on a really important task, then it makes sense to get a few minutes of shuteye.
According to medical professionals, humans have a natural tendency to get drowsy in the afternoon - it’s part of our circadian rhythm. This feeling of midday fatigue can be worsened by poor quality sleep at night. This means that if you don’t get enough nighttime sleep, feeling drowsy during midday or the early afternoon is a more likely occurrence.
On the other hand, if you get enough sleep at night, you’re less likely to itch for a nap during work hours.
Power napping at work is a practice that has not yet been widely embraced by most companies, so if your office doesn’t have a designated “nap room,” it’s up to you to find a place where you can doze off undisturbed.
The space you choose should be isolated so you don’t get woken up by people passing by, and it should be relaxing so that it won’t be hard for you to fall asleep. It can be your own private office, a conference room that’s not being used, a nearby library or in your parked car.
The sooner you fall asleep, the faster your body can recharge. Some people find it easy to fall asleep as soon as they close their eyes, while others need a little more time before they can really let their body relax.
If it takes a bit of time for you to fall asleep, try wearing an eye or sleep mask and ear plugs to block out the brightness and noise from your surroundings. You can also put earphones on and listen to white noise or soothing music to mask distracting sounds.
Like sleeping at night, it’s important to establish a napping routine at work. Nap at the same time and at the same place while listening to the same audio to train your body to rest in the middle of the day. Over time, this routine will make it easier for you to get your midday zzz’s in.
From jackets with inflatable hoods to sleep pods, we are now seeing a wide variety of products being marketed as accessories that make napping at work more enjoyable. But you don’t really have to spend much, if at all, on an office napping kit.
You just need to make sure you have something comfortable to sleep on (like an ergonomic chair), something to support your head and neck (like an inflatable neck pillow), something that makes it easier for you to sleep (like a travel blanket or oversized sweater) and something to block the light and control the noise.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to really enjoy a power nap at work is to have the go signal from your boss. Not only that, it would be great if you and your workmates are able to convince management of the benefits of sleeping breaks, which can lead to your very own in-office napping facilities.
Many companies already have wellness programs in place, so it’s just a matter of presenting managers with hard scientific data about how naps help in making people perform better and become more productive. Cite how the biggest corporations in the world have embraced power naps, and your pitch may just earn you the nod to nod off at work.