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Napping: a productive part of your daily routine

The siesta, where workers take a short afternoon nap before returning to their jobs refreshed, has long been a part of Spanish culture. It is not a custom, however, often portrayed in a positive light elsewhere.

Indeed, the notion that someone would need to nap during office hours has been frowned upon in the past. All of that is now changing, and with good reason.

As the benefits of napping become clearer, it is proving to be a practice that should not only be permitted, but encouraged. Conversely, the idea that you must struggle on through a sleep shortage should be seen as antiquated and counterproductive.

Our new Vhi Health Insights report into the impact of poor sleep found that a large proportion of corporate employees are not getting enough sleep. Some 35% of respondents reported seven hours or less per night on weekdays. Almost half wake up feeling unrefreshed on a weekly basis.

With that in mind, let’s look at why napping should be an accepted part of the daily routine of high-performers – and how you can use it most effectively.

What are the benefits?

If you are struggling at night to get the seven to eight hours of sleep needed for optimal functioning, a well-timed nap will increase your total sleep time without resulting in daytime drowsiness.

It is normal for our circadian patterns of wakefulness to take a mid-afternoon “dip”, leaving us feeling somewhat sleepy in the middle of our day. Napping can help us cope with this dip more effectively than drinking caffeine or even getting more night-time sleep.

Going deeper, there are measurable cognitive benefits.

Several studies have shown that if people are tasked with memorising something and then have a nap, their recall will be better than if they hadn’t taken it. Even a six-minute catnap can make a difference when it comes to retaining information.

Napping long enough to enjoy some REM sleep makes you better at finding connections and separating important information from extraneous details. In turn, this strengthens your problem-solving abilities.

So, not only can a nap improve your alertness and mood, it can also boost your creative thinking and overall mental acumen. All of this can only aid your productivity.

So, what’s the right way to nap?

  • First of all: do it without feeling guilty. Think of it as a recovery period to help you function better.
  • Aim for a 20- to 30- minute nap. Completing a 45-minute sleep cycle is ideal. Your nap should not exceed 90 minutes, as this leads to post-sleep grogginess.
  • Plan it, rather than waiting for sleepiness to strike. Between 1pm and 2.30pm is the best time to nap.
  • Coordinate it around caffeine intake; bearing in mind that caffeine takes time to kick in.
  • Find a cool, quiet and dark spot if you can. Putting your head down on your desk is far from ideal.

How can employers help?

The last point shows how crucial it is for businesses to recognise napping as a positive for everyone and offer workplace support. Installing designated nap rooms or ‘sleep pods’ would be a major step towards doing this. 

It’s important to foster an atmosphere where going without sleep isn’t seen as a sign of commitment or point of pride, a workplace where napping is the norm. As the evidence shows, it’s not just an altruistic move. It’s a smart business decision.

For more articles on sleep, click here.