You’re sleepy. Very sleepy. It’s the middle of the afternoon. Generally, you work at the office from 9 a.m. to p.m. When you get sleepy, you do everything you can to stay awake. Your work productivity plummets, but at least you’re not embarrassed.
Today, though, you’re working from home. Or, at least, you’re supposed to be working. You have several assignments due by tomorrow morning. “I’ll never get this done,” you say to yourself as you yawn, stretch, shake your head, and do everything you can to stay awake. You’ve already had three cups of coffee. Nothing is working.
You’ve been conditioned for years to keep working when you’re tired. Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe you should take a power nap.
“Although naps are often stigmatized as a sign of laziness or unproductivity, they can be very beneficial for workplace performance,” wrote sleep specialist Shelby Freedman Harris in The Huffington Post article “The Pros And Cons Of Napping.” “Short naps have been routinely demonstrated to reduce accidents and mistakes while also improving attention, concentration, performance and alertness.”
The pros of power naps include:
- They improve your memory: The University of California-Berkeley reported in a press release entitled “An afternoon nap markedly boosts the brain’s learning capacity” that it tested the effect of a 90-minute nap at 2 p.m. Half the people in its medical study napped. The other half didn’t. They gave everyone in the study a test at 6 p.m. The half who napped “did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn,” the college reported.
- They improve your productivity: The article “5 Reasons You Should Take a Nap Daily” reports that NASA researched the connection between naps and productivity. NASA found that a 45-minute nap improved its pilots’ task performance by 34 percent and their alertness by 54 percent. The effect of the nap “lasted as long as six hours,” the article said.
- They improve your creativity: A University of California-San Diego study showed that people improved their performance on creativity-oriented word problems by 40 percent after they took a nap with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. People who took a non-REM nap or didn’t nap didn’t improve their performance at all. A nap with REM sleep is usually at least an hour. The creativity study was reported by National Geographic magazine in an article entitled “Dreams Make You Smarter, More Creative, Studies Suggest.”
Naps can also make you more relaxed after you wake up, reduce your blood pressure, improve your mood for the rest of the day, reduce the amount of mistakes you make, and reduce the number of accidents you get into, according to reports by the Mayo Clinic and Health magazine.
Since the medical research on the benefits of naps is overwhelming, everyone should take a power nap, right? Well, not exactly. You should take a nap if you sleep well at night, but get tired the next afternoon. A nap at that time will regenerate you. Naps, though, can be counterproductive even though they improve your memory, productivity, and creativity.
The cons of power naps include:
- They can disrupt your evening sleep: You should sleep seven to nine hours per night if you’re between 18 and 64 years old. Older people should sleep seven to eight hours per night. Teens should sleep eight to 10 hours per night. A nap could make it more difficult to get the sleep that you need. The sleep expert who wrote The Huffington Post article, Shelby Freedman Harris, wrote that naps taken before 2 p.m. are less likely to disrupt your sleep in the evening.
- They can worsen your sleeping problems: Do you struggle to sleep at night? Do you wake up, go back to sleep, wake up, and on and on? If the answer to the two questions is ‘yes,’ you might have insomnia. You ought to consider going to a doctor to find out if you have an underlying problem such as sleep apnea. You also should avoid naps if possible. “Even just a little bit of a power nap reduces your nighttime sleep drive,” sleep disorders expert Ralph Downey III told Health magazine.
- They can make you groggy: Long naps can be counterproductive because they mean that you might have fallen into a deeper stage of sleep, The Huffington Post reports. A 20-minute nap could be very beneficial, but a 90-minute nap might make you groggy and unproductive after you wake up. Losing 70 minutes of work time might be OK if you’re working at home and can make up for your lost time. It might not be OK if you work at the office and your boss expects you to work. The bottom line is that many health experts recommend naps that are no longer than 30 minutes.
Naps work better when they are part of your daily routine and they don’t interfere with your evening sleep. Can they realistically be part of your daily routine if you work in an office? Believe it or not, they can. Historically, nappers were considered lazy, but the National Sleep Foundation reports that 34 percent of American companies allow their employees to nap at work, according to the Everyday Health article “The Most Sleep-Friendly Companies in America.”