Nap could increase productivity
Jackie Burke, a medical records technician from Oak Park, Illinois, says there were several Thursdays and Fridays when she felt her body and mind turning to mush — like “swimming in oatmeal,” she says.
Burke, who recently moved just outside of Denver, Colorado, had already been tested for a sleeping disorder, low iron and more, so she just assumed her grogginess was caused by a mix of stress, lack of sleep and age. “That age one is hard to admit,” says Burke, 53. “But I think I’ve been slowing down a bit since I turned 50. I think it’s a combination of all of those things.”
Burke says a co-worker suggested she take a nap during the day to see if it pushed some of the fog away. “He told me he’d been taking a halfan-hour nap in his car in the parking lot every day during lunch for five years,” she says. “It seemed very odd since we have a small parking lot and people are probably passing by him all the time, but I guess I never noticed.”
Burke gave it a try. “I was working from home the first time I tried it, and I got into bed and slept for an hour,” she says. “I felt great afterward but I felt like a bum sleeping in my bed, like I was cheating while my co-workers were sitting at their desks, so after that, I just sat on the couch and napped.”
When Burke was in the office, she’d usually sleep in her car, parked in an empty corner of a nearby Jewel parking lot, cutting down her nap time to 20 minutes.
Burke says a midday nap is now part of her daily routine.
“I work from home full time now so every day, around two, I have a cup of coffee, shut my eyes and in 30 seconds, I’m out,” she says.
Short and sweet dreams
Napping can be a quick fix for those suffering from the workday malaise. “A nap of 15 to 90 minutes can boost your mood, restore your focus, improve your creativity and increase your energy,” says Dr. Sara Mednick, author of “Take a Nap! Change Your Life.” “It’s a fairly simple solution for people. If you’re feeling sluggish during the day, you should give it a try.”
Mednick, who is also a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, suggests starting with a 15-minute nap, then working your way up in 15-minute increments until you find the sweet spot where you feel refreshed but not drowsy or over-tired.
Mednick says naps shouldn’t be a substitute for lack of sleep. Instead, a daytime nap should be considered a helpful tool to restore your cognitive abilities and to refresh your creativity.
While telecommuters have the luxury of napping at home and employees who drive have the option of sleeping in their cars, those workers who walk, bike, bus or train to the office have fewer options. But in some cases, employers are complying with their sleepy staffer, offering nap rooms for those quick trips to dreamland. Nap rooms, usually a cozy space with oversized chairs, couches and pillows, are part of the workplace landscape at companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Google, Zappos, and Nike, among others, allowing their employees a brief respite from the daily grind. Several cities are now homes to napping facilities, where drowsy workers can pay $20 for an hour of satisfying seclusion.
By the numbers
Thomas Freedom, MD, program director of Sleep Medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Glenview, Illinois, shared a breakdown of nap times and their respective benefits on the NorthShore website:
• 10-20 minutes: Freedom writes that the power nap is a great way to recharge your personal energy battery, boost alertness and increase midday focus. Freedom suggests taking a power nap in the early afternoon and staying within the 10-20 minute range. “You’ll stay in lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement, or NREM, which means you won’t wake up feeling groggy and can get right back to work feeling refreshed,” he writes.
• 30 minutes: Freedom warns that naps longer than 30 minutes may make people feel groggy, which can last up to 30 minutes after you wake up. “If you need to be back on your feet right away, keep your nap to less than 20 minutes,” he writes. Still, a 60-minute nap won’t hurt. You’ll get the benefits of the power nap but you’ll have to wait for your sleep inertia to wear off.
• 60 minutes: Freedom suggests the 60-minute nap for those people who forget information halfway through the day. “A nap between 30 and 60 minutes will get you to slow-wave sleep, which can help improve your decision-making skills and recollection of information,” he writes. As with the 30-minute nap, sleepers might need some time to recover, meaning they should allow for at least 30 minutes of grogginess before they’re 100 percent.
• 90 minutes: A 90-minute nap gives you a full sleep cycle, Freedom writes, from the lighter stages of sleep all the way to rapid eye movement, or REM. But Freedom warns that a long nap can disrupt regular sleep schedules and keep nappers up at night. As is the case with the 30- and 60-minute nappers, 90-minute sleepers should expect a recovery phase of sleep inertia as well.
A daytime nap should be considered a helpful tool to restore your cognitive abilities and to refresh your creativity.