Sleeping on the job used to be frowned upon but not anymore. March 15th is National Napping Day and March is National Sleep Awareness Month. A Pew Research Center survey found that 34% of Americans take daily naps. I’m one of those people who enjoys his midday snooze. It flips off my power switch and reboots my engine for the rest of the day. You, too, might find that power napping outweighs the benefits of chugging a Red Bull or drinking five cups of coffee to keep you alert and productive through the afternoon slump. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30 minutes or less of catnapping can “restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents” in the workplace.
How Power Naps Reboot Your System
If you’re like most American workers, you’ve experienced a sudden dip in your energy several hours into your workday—commonly referred to as the afternoon crash. To explore this phenomenon further, Paychex surveyed 1,000 people about their work productivity and experiences with afternoon fatigue. They found that 81% of employees experience the afternoon crash an average of 3.2 days per week, more than half of the workweek. So an afternoon nap could be the antidote to crashing after two o’clock. See my piece in Forbes.com on how to curb the afternoon crash.
In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy caught some extra z’s in early afternoon to keep up his stride. And NASA pilots take in-flight naps as short as 26 minutes to enhance performance and alertness by 34% and a 16% increase in reaction time. Some businesses have caught on because of the benefits of alertness, reduction in errors and increased productivity. More companies are encouraging employees to take power naps at work. Some such as Nike, Pizza Hut and Thrive Global, Inc. even provides special rooms with specially designed chairs for snoozing.
What Does The Research Say About Powering Down?
Studies at the Salk Institute show that brain activity, memory, and the power napper’s mood stays higher throughout the day compared to the brain activity of non-nappers, which declines as the day drags on. Another study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who power nap were 34% less likely to die from heart problems. Power naps are great stress buffers, according to research, boosting the immune system and reducing the level of cortisol in your blood, refreshing you and refueling your engine. Here are additional advantages from the studies:
1. Improves brain function
3. Sharpens alertness, reducing the frequency of errors and accidents
4. Increases productivity
5. Elevates Mood
6. Lowers blood pressure and promotes healthy functioning of the heart
7. Strengthens Memory
8 Things To Do For The Best Midday Power Nap
If you’re interested in reducing job stress and raising your productivity, you might give the power nap a shot. Midday napping is not for everyone, and some people have trouble sleeping during the daytime. But for some, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. The best time to power nap is around two or three o’clock in the afternoon. Here are some caveats to maximize the benefits:
1. Set an alarm. If you nap for more than 15 to 30 minutes, you might fall into deep sleep and wake up with a headache, feel groggy, or have difficulty sleeping later that night.
2. Minimize disruptions. Turn off your electronic devices and nap in a quiet place. Consider using earplugs to ensure your full 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep.
3. Limit caffeine. If you plan to power down after lunch, avoid drinking a lot of coffee or energy drinks earlier in the day. Caffeine can prevent you from falling asleep unless you drink it right before dosing off.
4. Be comfortable. Although some people sleep with their heads on their desks or lying back in an office chair, try sprawling out on an office sofa and use the cushion for your head. Make sure your supports are adequate and the room temperature is comfortable so that you can get to sleep right away.
5. Darken the room. Too much light makes it difficult to power nap. Turn off the lights and draw the blinds—both of which creates enough darkness for sleep.
6. Clear your mind. Make every effort to keep your power nap in a stress-free zone. Free your mind of any thoughts, worries or concerns, and tell yourself that this is your 15 or 30 minutes. You have the remainder of the day to deal with the other problems or unfinished business.
7. Reboot gently. Some people wake from a power nap feeling sluggish, usually because they’ve slept too long. But if you’re disoriented, give yourself a few minutes to perk up. Rub your arms and thighs to feel back in your body and splash your face with cold water. Then you’re ready to embrace another few hours in the day.
8. Don’t catnap for too long. Power napping earlier instead of later can actually help you sleep better at night. But napping too long during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep and lead to insomnia. Limit naps to 30 minutes and before 3:00 in the afternoon for best results.