Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Many old world cultures have long held their afternoon naps commonly known as siestas (or pisolinos if you’re Italian) in great revere. The afternoon nap became prominent in warmer climates where midday heat affected work productivity. Many of these cultures also indulged in food-coma-inducing midday meals, which also helped set the stage for a nice siesta. Today, indoor air conditioning and artificial lighting may have eliminated the need for first world societies to sleep through the midday heat, but how many times do you wish you could grab a quick nap after lunch? I do.
Science is helping remove the stigma American culture has long associated with midday napping. No longer reserved exclusively for children and the elderly, napping has been linked to a number health benefits. One study, that tracked some 23,600 people in Greece over a six-year period, found that people who napped during the day were 37 percent less likely to die from heart disease, stroke, or cancer than those who didn’t. In other words, taking a planned nap (or a “power nap” as you may sell it to your boss) not only feels good, but also can help you live longer.
In addition to physical health benefits, napping can also help boost your cognitive functioning. Studies have shown that productivity, creativity, memory, alertness, and overall mood are all beneficiaries of an afternoon nap. In fact, a 2008 study showed that taking a planned nap is better than caffeine in improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perpetual learning. Naps are also better than caffeine when it comes to free recall memory. Coffee may be more efficient, but not as effective as a quick snooze.
If you’re looking to add a power nap into your schedule, there are some effective napping guidelines you should follow:
- The ideal nap is between 10 and 30 minutes in duration. Any longer, and you run the risk of turning your nap into a full-blown slumber. Ideally, you should awake from your nap feeling refreshed and energized — not groggy and sluggish.
- Aim to nap sometime between 1:00 and 4:00PM.
Keep in mind, however, that the above guidelines are not hard and fast rules. The ideal length and time to nap depends on your body’s needs. The ideal nap can range from 6 minutes to 90 minutes, so take some time to figure out what works best for you and your schedule.
The bottom line is that naps are good for us, and many companies are embracing this idea. Some of the biggest names in the tech industry, like Google, even offer sleep pods for their employees. So next time you’re fighting through the day, consider taking a power nap. And if your boss questions this behavior, let them know you’re only doing it for the company. 😉