How many times have you come back from lunch and started to feel those mid-afternoon yawns coming thick and fast, or noticed your eyelids drooping just a little bit more than they should be. As we all know this is a relatively common phenomenon but unfortunately there isn’t a lot we can do about it, or is there?
Naps, everyone loves a good nap. Whether you’re building up energy for later on or just need to get in a few extra z’s, there’s a nap for every occasion; a 20 minute nap is recommended to increase your alertness, a 30 minute nap to clear your mind, and a 90 minute nap that mimics the benefits of a deep sleep. However, when we’re at work you can’t really put your feet up and catch a few winks, even if you’re on your lunch break.
But is the stigma around workplace naps coming to an end? Could a nap boost your productivity and make you better at what you do?
Why we need to sleep
Every night we sleep to recharge our batteries, but in recent times this is becoming harder to do. According to a 1942 Gallup Poll the average adult in the UK was receiving as much as 7.9 hours of sleep a night whereas in 2017 that number was just 6.3 hours a night, that’s quite a substantial drop off.
So why aren’t we getting as much sleep? Increased work pressure that has arisen from increasingly demanding jobs, longer commute times, more technology, and a wider array of recreational activities. However, the bottom line is that we’re probably not getting as much as we should.
Could naps be the answer?
A study published by Nature Neuroscience entitled ‘the restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration’ found that reflexes of employees tested four times a day deteriorated with each test. Though when subjects were given a thirty minute nap after the second test there was no further deterioration. Astonishingly enough, those who took a 60 minute nap actually reversed the process and displayed reflexes as sharp as they were in the morning.
This method of taking short naps in the middle of the day to increase productivity, is also echoed in history and in different cultures around the globe. Many of us are familiar with the Spanish tradition of siestas, which involves an afternoon rest before heading back to work.
In preindustrial societies, some of which still exist today, it’s also common for work to be done in the morning with a break taken in the afternoon to rest and recuperate before doing more work and eventually having a full night’s sleep.
Because of these restorative examples of sleep several large companies have started to reintroduce the afternoon nap in a bid to create a more effective work force. Nike, Procter and Gamble, and Ben and Jerry’s have all undertaken initiatives to help their employees’ resting habits.
One of the more interesting examples is Google’s ‘sleep pods’ in which employees can take a short nap in a suspended egg like structure. Employees are encouraged to use these pods to stay well rested and mitigate any of the usual human errors that can arise from lack of sleep.
What to do if you need a nap?
First, you should ask your boss, not every office has the kind of culture that encourages this kind of activity. It’s also important to find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed or that you won’t disturb anyone else. Provided that you have permission, there’s no reason that you couldn’t do it at your desk but getting away from your desk during the day can have benefits in and of itself. Finally, don’t forget to set an alarm, the last thing you want is to sleep through the entire day!