Nap could in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Job Market - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

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.

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