Replace Afternoon Coffee with 20 Minute Power Nap

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At your next departmental meeting, you might want to suggest that your boss allow for power naps during the work day.

Are you wasting your employer's money if you take a short snooze during company time?  There are experts who believe it is a great way to increase productivity in the workplace.  Johns Hopkins Deputy Director for Sleep Disorders Dr. Susheel Patil is pushing for workers on graveyard shifts to receive scheduled naps.  Director of Work and Health Research Center at University of Maryland School of Nursing wants to see workers who have extremely long shifts to receive time for catnaps.  So whether it is an air-traffic controller working midnight to 8am, or a medical resident burning the candle down on a 24 or 36 hour shift, napping can impact overall health and mental focus.

Many companies are hiring risk-management teams to assess how fatigue impacts productivity and places their employees at a health risk.  Mental fatigue is certainly a worthwhile motivator for companies to consider.  But what about mental focus and sharpness?  Power napping was a useful technique for great thinkers like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.  If life leaves most of us with only 6 hours of sleep a night (more or less) and most companies are over working their employees by increasing responsibilities and decreasing staff, then companies should support power napping to improve productivity.

Power napping is a research topic in itself.  Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that brain activity is high when naps are taken.  Power napping, a 20 minute brain and body shut down - where your prefrontal cortex just sits quietly idle, can:
  • improve alertness
  • increase stamina
  • sharpen motor skills

According to NASA sleep researchers, "26 minutes can boost performance by 34 %... and increases work memory."  I started power napping about 3 years ago.  It helped during my pregnancies.  I found it was a great way to re-charge, especially when I was losing focus or simply didn't know what I wanted to do next on my list.   But I resisted power napping and its value for years.  My husband, a firefighter for 20 years swore by them.  I just dismissed their value because I did not work a 24 hour shift like him.  It made since that he did it 1-3 times a day instead of coming home and going straight to bed.  

Now that I have not been pregnant for 1 year, I rely on them on days that I am absolutely dragging.  Believe or not, the days I teach 8-9 classes I seem to need them less than the days when I sit at my desk for more than 4 hours doing administrative work for my company.  When my job requires more mental focus I seem to need the re-charge more than when I am physically moving.  The ideal time to power nap is in the afternoon.  It is a great alternative to a 3pm coffee.  It takes some practice.  Give it a try - even if you have to lay still,  allow your body the stillness and your mind the quiet.   Set your phone alarm for 20 minutes.  Consider it the same as running to get a cup of coffee.

Filed under: Great Exercises, health

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  • I love naps, but feel more tired afterwards rather than refreshed.

  • In reply to bethprystowsky:

    That is how it was for me when I started napping. Especially right when I woke up -I was more tired, but then an hour or 2 later I could feel the re charge. As I started napping more often it felt less and less tired post nap. The simple mind shut down was the most helpful.

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