Career Woman

The power of power naps for busy women

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There has been a stigma around naps in our culture.  Napping seemed to be reserved for very young, very old, or unwell people in our society.  However, these are not the only people who can benefit from a little shut-eye during the day.

With the power of napping being revealed in mainstream media, and nap pods gaining popularity, it looks like the collective view on napping might be starting to shift.  Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of power naps and how you can use napping to help your career.

The benefit of naps for your career

Daytime naps are not just a break from your busy day, although that’s part of the allure.  They are an important opportunity to catch up on sleep, recharge your body and reboot your mindset for the afternoon.

A study conducted by the Sleep Health Foundation last year claimed that loss of productivity from sleep deprivation cost the Australian economy $16.9 billion per year.  The same report stated that more than one person dies on the job every day in Australia due to lack of sleep.  Often these deaths involved driving or industrial accidents.

Even if you are not operating heavy machinery, napping will allow you to perform better in your job or daily life.  Here are just some of the ways that naps can help your career by improving productivity.

  • Reducing subjective fatigue. Actual tiredness is difficult to measure.  It is often accessed by the way that a person reports feeling.  After napping people report feeling less fatigued and more energised for the afternoon.
  • Increasing levels of alertness. Research by the University of Michigan showed that a nap in the day improved focus and alertness compared to a control study of people who watched a nature video for the same amount of time.
  • Enhancing cognitive performance. One study showed that short naps improve cognitive performance for 1 to 3 hours after the nap.  This means that instead of a slump in the afternoon you could actually power through and get more high-level work done.
  • Speeding up motor performance. According to author Sara Mednick, motor performance is improved after a nap.  She says that even fine motor skills like typing on a keyboard, are boosted after a daytime nap.
  • Boosting decision making and problem-solving skills. A 2008 study showed that a nap is better than a caffeine hit for improving perceptual learning and motor skills.  Napping also helps people making better decisions, in life and in work.  Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people take longer to make a decision and are more likely to experience regret from that decision.

The personal benefits of napping

Naps are great for improving productivity at work, but they are also beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing.

Naps improve your overall health

If you are not getting the recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night then napping can help to make up that deficit.  Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a variety of health problems such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and stroke.  Napping also stifles sugar cravings and gives you more energy, which means you are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Naps help to lift your mood and ward off mental illness.

It’s no secret that being tired makes you grumpy.  Napping increases serotonin in the brain which will help you to wake up with a more positive outlook.  Napping is also a stress-buster.  If you have been feeling stressed lately, try taking a nap and see if you feel calmer when you wake up.  Lack of sleep has also been linked to depression and anxiety, which is another reason why you should be taking naps if your nightly sleep is inadequate.

Powering up your power naps

Here are some rules of power naps as well as some tips for squeezing a nap into your busy workday.

How long to nap for

Numerous studies have shown longer naps can lead to sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling you can get from day sleeping.  Experts recommend keeping your naps under 30 minutes.  20 minutes is ideal.  Set a gentle alarm so you don’t oversleep.

When to nap

Napping in the middle of the day is best.  Most people prefer an after-lunch siesta.  In addition, napping in your lunch break is likely to draw less attention from co-workers, than other times of the day.  Don’t nap after 4pm as it will affect your ability to sleep at night.  If you are a shift worker, these times might vary.  Do what works best for your work schedule.

Where to nap

This one can be tricky.  Not all of us have a progressive workplace with a fancy nap pod.  However, try to find somewhere comfortable and preferably dark and quiet.  It might be your office, your car, a park, an unused room at work, or even a hotel room if you are serious about your nap.  Perhaps you could campaign for your local gym to hold napping class like this gym in the UK.

Nap time accessories

You won’t always be able to find the ideal napping space.  But, there are a few things that can help.  Invest in a sleep mask to block out any daylight or artificial light.  If you must nap in a noisy environment, you can use earplugs or headphones with white noise or relaxing music.  Napping in your office chair can be uncomfortable and hard on your spine, but if it’s the only option, try using a travel pillow to support your head and neck.  If you can lay your head down, have a cushion or soft jumper you can rest your head on.  Lastly, if your office is cold, as they tend to be, keep a light blanket or shawl at work to keep you warm.

About Alicia Potts

Alicia Potts is a Sydney mother-of-two who is passionate about helping people realise the value of sleep. She is the founder and owner of The Deep Sleep Co . Australia’s guide to sleep products and services. The Deep Sleep Co. showcases the best sleep products available in Australia and New Zealand. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to stay up to date with sleep technology in Australia.

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