How a Nap Can Help Your Career
A few years ago, a midday snooze was a perk restricted to a few tech workers. And typically, if a company offered a nap room, they also expected their employees to work late enough to need it the next day.
Now, the work environment is evolving. More people are working from home than at any other point in history. Freelancers make up an ever-expanding segment of the workforce. And employers are being forced to get creative to attract new talent. The odds that you can catch a snooze at work—without annoying your boss—are better than ever before.
The Benefits of Taking a Nap
So, let’s say you can catch some Zzz’s at work. Should you? Consider the following reasons to block off some time in your calendar for some shuteye:
Get Over the Afternoon Hump
Do you get sleepy in the middle of the afternoon? You’re not lazy. Mid-afternoon sleepiness is a normal part of many people’s circadian rhythm, according to Harvard Health. What’s more, taking a nap may be the best way to overcome it. Research cited by Harvard Health showed that naps were more effective than caffeine at getting subjects through that productivity lull. Even getting more sleep at night wasn’t as helpful as taking a short nap in the afternoon.
Improve Your Ability to Learn
A short nap (say, 20 minutes or so) can improve your alertness. But here’s some good news for nappers dedicated to longer snoozes: research shows that a 60- to 90-minute nap can boost the ability to learn new things. Study participants have greater success with a visual learning task after a good night’s sleep—or after a long nap.
Solve Problems While You Sleep
Not only do naps boost cognitive function, studies show, but they also may help you solve problems while you snooze. University of Bristol researchers found that study subjects subconsciously processed tasks while sleeping for short periods. Upon waking, the subjects who napped showed faster processing speed with these tasks than the subjects who didn’t nap.
In other words, it’s possible that your napping brain is still working at job-related tasks while you sleep. So, don’t think of a nap as a time out. It may well be the quickest route to a solution.
Experts say that at least 50 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. The mental and physical health effects of regularly missing out on a good night’s rest are sobering. Researchers have identified an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, and depression, among other ailments.
Why is sleep deprivation so bad for your health? In part, it’s because lack of sleep increases cytokines, an inflammatory molecule, and cortisol and norepinephrine, which are stress hormones. But research suggests that napping can help mitigate the effects of losing sleep at night. Study subjects who slept for just two hours a night showed increased cytokines and norepinephrine when they didn’t nap the next day. But when they did nap, their levels were normal—as if they hadn’t missed out on nighttime sleep at all.
Enjoy Real Work-Life Balance
Productivity boosts and health benefits aside, there’s a less obvious benefit to making a daily nap a part of your routine: it returns your time to you.
It’s been at least 20 years since office workers could count on a 9-to-5 schedule. Taking work home with you, checking email on the weekends, and logging in early in the morning are part of many people’s routine. Scheduling time to rest and recuperate during the workday reminds you what work-life balance is really about: giving you back your life, not giving work your life.