Does getting a power nap in really make a difference?
Napping has never exactly been my strong suit. While I’m not one of those highly energetic unicorns who’s never tired, my brain and body have always just kind of fought mini-snooze sessions. (Yes, even as a kid—a point my parents always remind me of all these years later.)
But ever since wellness guru Arianna Huffington made napping a cornerstone of her sleep revolution—pointing to science that shows it can improve alertness, boost your mood, and enhance creativity—I’ve been intrigued. And the idea of snoozing at work (something Huffington promoted by outfitting her former newsroom with nap rooms) is definitely something I could get into. Getting paid to sleep so that I can be more productive? Um, yes please.
But could I pull it off? And would I feel any different? Here’s what I found when I tried taking 15-minute naps at work for a week.
The case for snoozing on the job
Napping isn’t just good in the short-term: “Many studies have shown that napping regularly—at least three times per week—has long-term benefits,” explains Christopher Lindholst, CEO of MetroNaps, which designed the EnergyPod, a very space age-y nap chair specifically for offices. “Routine napping has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and can help improve your career, since people who are not getting enough sleep tend to make poor decisions,” he says.
Regular on-the-job napping can also eliminate the dreaded mid-day slump, which is basically your biology begging for a nap. “Our circadian rhythm dictates a drowsy spell in the early afternoon,” Lindholst says. “We all are biologically biphasic—the term for when a person sleeps twice within a 24 hour period.” In other words, the recommended amount of daily sleep may be between seven and eight hours a night, but a healthy biphasic sleeper should also have a smaller 15 to 20-minute snooze at some point to feel their absolute best, he says. For most people, the perfect time for that second sleep is in the afternoon when your circadian rhythm naturally makes you drowsy. “A nap as short as six minutes has been shown to boost cognitive performance,” Lindholst says.
How I pulled it off
Well+Good’s office is an open floor plan with several other companies surrounding us, so my first issue was privacy. Every day for a week, I booked the corner conference room for a 30-minute block. (I took Lindholst’s advice and tried to schedule my naps when I feel the most lethargic—generally around 4 p.m.) I also did a little research and came across the Ostrich Pillow, a cushion specifically designed for napping on-the-go. It looks kind of insane, but it’s supposed to create a personal, mini-oasis.
On my first attempt, I barely relaxed. The fact that people could see into the conference room made me feel self-conscious, even though my bosses knew what I was doing. It’s awkward to be the person who is literally sleeping on the job. Plus, the Ostrich Pillow is soft, but it takes some getting used to. Day one = a flop.
On my next few attempts, things improved. I didn’t actually fall asleep, but I let the drowsiness just kind of wash over me and eased into a state of serenity that felt pretty meditative. By day five, I had my routine down pat and was no longer self-conscious about anyone catching me in the act. Translation: I actually fell asleep! Sure, it was only for about six minutes, but I’ll take it.
Overall, I noticed a pronounced difference in my daily energy levels, even on the days when I didn’t actually fall asleep. Just stepping away from the computer screen for a set amount of time every day to shut my eyes really helped me re-focus. That was especially true on the day that I actually conked out for a bit.
Is it going to become an everyday thing for me? We’ll see what my boss says. But given the change I felt in just one week—and the wellness benefits of sneaking in zzz’s—it’s definitely a dream worth having.
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