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Sleeping better

Sleeping better

August 17, 2018

Could napping at work solve your productivity woes?

Image credit: iStock/PeopleImages

None of us seem to get enough sleep nowadays. Maybe you struggle to drop off and lie awake for hours, maybe you can fall asleep fine but end up waking up throughout the night, or perhaps you simply have too much to do to get to bed at a reasonable time. Whatever the case, it won’t be long before it starts affecting your productivity at work.

It can be hard to get through your workday at the best of times, but when you’re tired it can be a real struggle. You can find yourself staring at a computer screen, desperately trying to get through this piece of work so you don’t fall behind, but unable to think of a single word to type.

Whatever your job, you will not have a good time at work if you are this unproductive, especially in the long run. So what is the solution? Well, you should certainly try to get more sleep each night, but if that is still a struggle then you could always try having a nap on the job.

This might seem extremely unprofessional, but it’s backed up by science. If you find yourself struggling to stay productive, a nap could be just what you need, and here’s why:

 

We’re biologically programmed to nap

A lot of human lifestyle has moved too fast for evolution to catch up, and one example is our sleep patterns. There’s a hormone called melatonin that helps to regulate our sleep by making us tired at certain points in the day, such as when the sun goes down. This can be very useful, as long as it is released at the right times.

However, one biological holdover from when humanity used to live in the trees is that our bodies typically release melatonin between 1pm and 3pm. That might have been a perfect time for our ancestors to have a snooze, but it isn’t helpful in the middle of a workday.

 

Short sleep periods help us perform better

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that having a nap in the middle of the day doesn’t just bring us back to our normal levels of performance, but actually improves them. For example, our memories have been seen to improve after a period of sleep, which can be useful for those of us who struggle to remember which tasks need doing at work.

A study from NASA got military pilots and astronauts to take a 40-minute nap, then perform a series of tasks. The organisation found that the short sleep had helped them improve their overall performance by 34 per cent, and their alertness by 100 per cent. It’s thought that this increase in alertness lasts for several hours, not just the period after the nap.

 

How long should you nap for?

Of course, you don’t want to spend the entire day asleep, or having a nap every half an hour! So how long should you sleep for? It depends how you’re feeling. For example, if you’re groggy and struggling to stay alert, a quick 10-minute nap should be enough to recharge your batteries.

However, you don’t really want to be sleeping for 20 to 35 minutes. This length of time isn’t enough for you to get any major benefits, but is enough for you to suffer the effects of sleep inertia; the feeling of grogginess that makes it hard to get out of bed. A nap of this length will actually harm your performance, not improve it.

The best nap length for performance is between 40 minutes and an hour. This helps you get into the first stage of deep sleep, which has positive effects on things like memory and quick thinking. It is a significant chunk of time, but it could help you be so productive that you easily make it up throughout the day.

 

Talking to your boss

We should make it clear; we don’t want anyone to start taking 40-minute naps in the middle of their work days without checking with their boss first! Talking to your supervisor is an important part of this, and you might find they’re hard to persuade. However, you can always use the facts we’ve provided you with to change their mind.

Many companies have embraced nap culture, such as Google. Even the entire country of Japan is pro-nap, allowing overworked employees to sleep when they need to recharge. Losing 40 minutes to a nap is better than losing half a day to tiredness, after all.

 

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