We all know that we should all aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. But for most of us, it is easier said than done. Sometimes that “monkey brain” will just not settle down, envisioning a plethora of potential scenarios and problems, and reliving moments that did not go as expected. The good news is that the same experts also believe that a power nap—about 30 minutes of shut-eye taken in the early afternoon—are effective not only as a “catch-up” on the lost snooze the night before but also as a daily re-energizer, done on a regular basis. (As long as insomnia is not an issue, that is.)
There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that short periods of sleep improve the cognitive functioning of the brain (i.e., critical thinking, concentration, clarity), and help with maintaining a healthy body. In a recent study, University of Pennsylvania researchers found that a moderate nap in the afternoon coincided with improvements in people’s thinking and memory prowess.
But these interludes have to be done the right way. According to Prof Kevin Morgan at Loughborough University’s Clinical Sleep Research Unit, the ideal time for a nap is between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. “There is a natural physiological dip in the circadian rhythm and body temperature drops. We almost certainly evolved to sleep at that time of day.” Other sleep experts suggest earlier afternoon as best timing, so the nap does not interfere with nighttime sleep later.
Prof. Morgan also warns that this nap should not take longer than 30 minutes. Sleep longer than 30 minutes, and you’re likely to enter a slow-wave and deep REM sleep, and waking up from this sleep cycle could make you feel worse than you did before nodding off.
The rise of workday sleep industry proves that this brief R-and-R works and is in demand. Napping spaces are popping up all over the world. From Siesta & Go, nap bar in Madrid, to Recharj, a meditation and napping studio Washington, D.C., to Peace Power Napping studio in Chicago— all are inundated with workers in need of sleep catch-up and re-energizing.
Still, for most North American workers, finding a time and place to nod-off is challenging. Napping in your chair at your workstation is still looked on as slouching off and can potentially be a career-ending move.
Fortunately, these attitudes are beginning to change as the more innovative companies are beginning to see the value of having a well-rested and refreshed workforce. Case in point: Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Uber, PwC and HuffPost have all installed napping spaces for their workers. Here’s hoping your company follows the suit!