Over the past month, as our clients have transitioned to working from home, several re-occurring themes continue to present themselves. Homeworkers are extremely busy with seemingly more to do than ever. Additionally, with increased workloads, increased hours at the desk, the stresses of isolation, and the overall COVID-19 pandemic, home workers are finding they are “tired all the time”. As someone who has worked successfully from home for the past six-year, I can certainly say that I’m feeling it as well.
As we all try to cope with these changes and fight the mental and physical strain of it all, perhaps now, more than ever, we all need a quick timeout and a quick nap.
Ah, the afternoon nap. Many think that it is just for infants, toddlers, and slackers. But in truth, many of us are chronically sleep-deprived and the quickest of naps can do wonders. In speaking with one of my clients recently, she mentioned to me that her lunch hour is now her “nap hour”.
Her “nappytime” as my mom would call it, has really helped her disconnect from the stress of the day and increased her productivity.
Think of the lessons we learn about taking a break to sharpen our axes because a dull ax produces less chopped wood than a sharpened ax.
Most experts recommend a nap of 10-20 minutes, any longer can lead to "sleep inertia" – grogginess that can be hard to snap out of. But how can a mere 20 minutes of daytime slumber really help?
Consider the following:
Provides a Memory Boost
In one study, participants who napped regularly improved their performance on cognitive tests of memory and vigilance conducted in the subsequent two and a half hours.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that a NASA study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100% percent. While you may not be driving a spaceship, the foundation recommends a quick nap before driving your car to reduce the risk of a drowsy driving car crash.
The mind loves a nap. Daytime sleep can, “enhance creative thinking, boost cognitive processing, improve memory recall and generally clear out the cobwebs," James Maas and Rebecca Robbins, co-founders of Sleep for Success wrote.
Things can be tough when you’re tired, especially when it comes to matters of willpower which is often strongest in the morning when the brain is fresh. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain has an especially hard time ignoring distractions and controlling impulses. A mid-day “power nap” can reverse the usual willpower drain from morning to night,” adding that a nap can reduce stress, improve mood, and restore focus.
Calms Your Nerves
A University of Berkeley study found that a 90-minute nap can potentially keep you calm. When study participants were shown faces that expressed anger, fear and happiness at noon, and then again at 6:00 p.m. They found that the subjects were significantly more upset by angry and fearful faces later in the day; but not if they had a 90-minute lunchtime nap in which they experienced REM sleep.
Lowers Blood Pressure
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that the “siesta habit” is associated with a 37% reduction in coronary mortality, possibly because of reduced cardiovascular stress associated with daytime sleep. While they admit that they don’t know whether the benefit came from the nap itself, or a reclined position, they concluded that this decrease in blood pressure may be why lower coronary mortality has been found in those who take naps.
It’s Better than Coffee… or in my Case Diet Coke
Researchers have found that while longer naps may cause grogginess, they also get in some good REM sleep which is where complex learning and perceptual skills are benefitted. In one experiment, sleep scientist Sara Mednick and her team directly compared caffeine intake (200 mg) with napping (60–90 minutes) and placebo on three distinct memory processes: declarative verbal memory, procedural motor skills, and perceptual learning. Overall, the nap improved performance across all three different learning areas, while caffeine impaired (or at least did not benefit) performance.
Although the benefits of naps are many, not everyone has an easy time falling asleep in the middle of the day. For those, even just quiet momentary pause or meditation can do wonders. Simple breathing exercises – like breathing slowly can help slow down your brain and can be refreshing.
Now, more than ever we need to take the opportunity to pause, refresh, and enjoy a short afternoon nap.
Let me know (after my nap), how your work has improved because of taking the time to regularly nap.
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