Welcome back to The Curiosity Concept!
I previously said that my post on time management and The Eisenhower Matrix has been my favourite to write so far, but I think this week’s post has topped that one, or at least comes in at a close second. That’s mainly because this post contains scientific evidence that shows that napping can improve your productivity.
Round of applause for science.
Although scientific studies are susceptible to issues with validity and reliability, I have to say that since my first year of uni, 20-25 minute power naps and 8 hours of sleep are arguably the best productivity habits that I have used and continue to incorporate into my routine. Every day, your mind is constantly absorbing, storing and processing information, consciously and subconsciously. It doesn’t come as a surprise that this constant stimulation can negatively affect your energy levels, your ability to pay attention to tasks, form coherent thoughts and ideas and even think creatively. Without giving your mind the time to recuperate, you can become prone to mental fatigue and burnout. Just as your body needs rest and TLC for optimal functioning, so too does your mind. And fortunately for all of us, sleeping and napping help with both!
The benefits of napping
Numerous studies have been conducted on the topic of napping and productivity. Rosekind et al (1995) explain that napping can help to maintain and improve your alertness, performance and mood, more so than long periods of being awake. In their research, they also summarise that the benefits of a nap can be felt for 2 to 12 hours following the nap, depending on the length of the nap.
Mishra (2009) points out that taking a short nap in the afternoon is common in various parts of the world such as China, Italy and Latin America, and senior managers in companies that facilitate nap times and “nap rooms” for their employees, including Ben & Jerry’s, Deloitte and Time Warner Inc, reported that employees felt “recharged” and that work efficiency was higher following napping.
A further benefit, summarised by Murphy et al (2016), is that sleeping and napping can enhance memory. They explain a study conducted by Harvard Univesity, which found “that the brain uses sleep to restore overused brain circuits” and to “[consolidate] the memories of actions and skills learned during the day”. This is why napping is one of my favourite productivity strategies – you can get a lot out of literally not doing anything.
Ultimately, at work, the most important thing is our energy. It’s not exactly how many hours we are sitting at our desks, but how present are we when we’re there
It’s common knowledge that young children tend to get restless and moody when they’re tired, and an afternoon nap is often the solution to help with this. But as we get older and become adults, tiredness and sleepiness seem to equate to laziness – people who rest more are seen as less serious or less ambitious.
I understand the need for hard work. There’s nothing like the thought that “things may come to those who wait, but only things left behind by those who hustle” to kick you into gear. But your energy will naturally lull at certain times of the day, because of your circadian rhythm, and your hustle can essentially be for nothing if it’s halfhearted and done drowsily.
Hustling when your body doesn’t have the energy to exert itself can lead to poor performance of tasks, which ends up being a disservice to your work and those you might be working with. In the worst case, it can put yourself and others in physical danger. Mishra (2009) states that “[in] the United States sleep deprivation is responsible for a fifth of all motor vehicle accidents and 8,000 deaths annually. Estimates are that 80,000 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day.” Evidently, grinding away and constantly “hustling hard” doesn’t seem to be worth the potential consequences of the mental and physical strain resulting from sleep deprivation.
Tips for napping effectively
Sleeping can be used as an important tool for increasing productivity – they don’t have to be thought of as enemies. But research does emphasise that napping has to be done in a certain way in order for the improvement of alertness, focus, mood, energy, performance and memory to be felt.
- Nap for a short period, i.e. not more than 25 minutes. Naps for longer periods can increase the feeling of grogginess when you wake up.
- Avoid napping too late in the day otherwise, you may disturb your other sleeping periods or “adversely affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep” (Murphy et al (2016))
- If possible, nap in an environment that is conducive to sleep
Thomas Frank gives a great explanation for having the perfect productive nap in this video:
So, with summer now upon us, you may have more control over how more of your days are structured. Why not schedule in a power nap at the time of day when your energy levels are at their lowest?
The ‘normal’ way of life isn’t really set up to accommodate for nap time for those of us over the age of 5, so unless you are 4 years old and reading this post (which, if you are, congrats, you are Kid Einstein) this post is particularly relevant for the days when you are in control of your schedule.
In light of all of this, I guess what I’m trying to say is, all schools, colleges, universities and places of work need naptimes and sleeping pods. Let’s make it national, or better yet, international policy for the improvement of public health.*
Maybe the idea is farfetched, but look at the world – at some point in time, humans on the moon, humans flying in the air and humans electing Trump as POTUS were all ‘farfetched’ ideas.
If Trump can be President, I believe that we can #MakeNapTimeAThingAgain.
Onwards and upwards,
Sources I used for this post:
- The Perfect Nap – Autumn Murphy, Monica Hassing, Jitendra Mishra and Bharat Mishra (2016)
- A Case For Naps In The Workplace – Jitendra Mishra (2009)
- Alertness management: strategic naps in operational settings – Mark R. Rosekind, Roy M. Smith, Donna L. Miller, Elizabeth L. Co, Kevin B. Gregory, Lissa L. Webbon, Philippa H. Gander, J. Victor Lebacqz (1995)
- Sleeping More is Productive Not Lazy – Amber McNaught for Thrive Global
- Arianna Huffington on Why a Nap Room Is So Important at Work – Melissa Minton for Architectural Digest
- Naps – KidsHealth
* I’m kidding. But at the same time, I’m kinda not.