You should be napping – Yeah!
You should be napping. It can improve your energy level, productivity, memory and happiness.
C’mon, I know you think I’m just looking for excuses to sleep in the middle of the day, but this is scientific. Seriously.
Winston Churchill needed it for winning wars – he was the one who coined the term “power-nap”. Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Albert Einstein and other historical stars – were napping every day. A 2008 study showed that naps are better than caffeine when it comes to improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning. Unfortunately no motor skills are needed for my work.
It’s post-lunch time. You feel like your eyes are closing, and your tummy is screaming at you: “Give me your energy! All of it! Don’t you dare give your brain some of it!”. Layers in your Photoshop are all vague… that web-design you’re working on, seems not-so-responsive all of a sudden.
So you’re thinking of napping, but you feel guilty. You’re afraid that you’ll lose precious working time. You think it means that you are a lazy ba**ard. And when you already do it, you wake up feeling like you have a hungover – it takes you ages to go back to work.
Well – you got it all wrong. This nap can make you even more productive, and there’s a way to do it right.
It takes some practice before you can master the power of napping. Let me teach you how to do that. I know, because I nap almost every day in the last five years. Oh yes.
I’m an early bird. By the time it’s 8AM I’m already multitasking, being creative, on top of my task-list. Around 1PM, my brain is already full with images, texts, shapes, ideas, lists of sorts, and people I had talked to. My table has two empty coffee cups on it. My head is heavy. It is full. I’m about to crack.
And then I nap. Super sweet nap.
When I get up, I take some deep breaths, cook myself a coffee, drink some water – and here we go. It’s like a bright new day in front of me. My creativity, my patience, my love for what I do – those are all refreshed. The second half of the day is even more productive and relaxed than the first one.
Here are my golden tips for finding the right nap for you:
Timing Is Everything
If you sleep too little or too much – your nap can kill your second half of the day. Here are the options you got for the right durations of napping:
The Safe Nap
Did you ever try to nap for an hour or two and got up exhausted? More tired than you were before the nap? Well, apparently you should only nap between 10 to 30 minutes. I know, I know it seems too little. But you see, there’s all this sleeping cycle you must have heard of – where we first sleep very lightly, and then go into deep sleep stages. I don’t want to bore you with details now (you can read all about it here) but yada yada yada, you don’t want to get into the “REM phase”. This is when you sleep so deep, you are actually starting dreaming. Waking up in the middle of this phase, is just like waking up in the middle of the night – you will feel exhausted. And you will probably regret ever trying to nap.
Nasa has shown in 1995 that napping is important for operational settings. They called it “strategic naps” – I like it. In their research, the participants have slept 25.8 minutes on average. I guess what’s working for the NASA operations, must be great for my creative work.
How long should your nap be? This is personal, but it should be between 10 to 30 minutes. Try 15, try 20, try 25, try 30 – and see how much you can sleep before you get into deep sleeping. Start with 30. Set your alarm clock before you start napping, and when you get up, observe how you feel. If you’re not energised, try 5 minutes less on the following day. Find your sweet spot for the sweet nap.
The Lazy Nap
In case you didn’t sleep well last night, take the 90 minutes nap. This is a full cycle of sleeping, and you will feel super-charged after it. Make sure you do 90 minutes, no less, or you will wake up with a huge hungover, and it will take you another 30-60 minutes to recover.
The Coffee Nap
Another effective type of napping might sound weird to you. It’s called “the coffee nap”. You drink a cup of coffee and then enter your bed for 15 minutes. No more. No less.
Apparently coffee helps clearing you from adenosine – the chemical which makes you sleeping. So having a quick nap + coffee can make you refreshed for a long time after the nap.
Falling asleep the right way
So you decided you want to nap. But it takes you time to fall asleep even though you are tired, right?
Here’s the most popular people do in order to fall asleep. They watch something on their TV or iPad. Well, this is the worst way to fall asleep, especially for a nap.
Watching your screen will ensure your sleep is not effective is it should be. The noises from the speakers (or headphones) and the brightness of the screen in front of you, prevent your brain from calming down as it should.
Instead, try listening to some meditation instructor, or to relaxing sounds. You know, like in the Spa. Muji – the Japanese brand – has just created an app just for that. They chose the most calming sounds to help you fall asleep. You imagine you are in the middle of a forest, or sleeping next to a river. I’m using it myself.
Location, location, location
If you’re lucky enough to work from home, try to create darkness in your room. This will ensure you sleep like a baby.
If you can’t reach full darkness, use an eye-mask (I bought a really good one in the airport.). You might look a bit funny, but believe me, it’s worth it.
If you work in an office, look for a nearby park, where you can put your jacket on the grass and just lay down on it. Imagine you’re back in high-school, and you decided to skip the next class. Remember – all you need is 15 minutes, plus the time to get to/from the park. Convince your colleague to join you. That way you will feel more safe, and you can even share the secret.
No park nearby your office? The next best thing is a comfortable bench. Even ten minutes on a bench could energize you a bit. I know it doesn’t sound amazing like a dark room, but hey – you need to work from home for this treat.
And most important – turn off your phone when you nap. The world can wait for you 30 minutes. And when you get up, do NOT check your phone immediately. Take five minutes for a relaxed awakening before getting back to work.
Finally – you’re not alone
The world is not ready for the nappers yet. When people hear I nap almost every day, they look at me strange. I’m never sure if they are jealous or criticizing me, but there’s one thing for sure – I’m much more productive than most people I know. Especially since I got myself this sweet habit.
If you feel the same, try and change it. Talk about napping with your friends, and with your colleagues. You will find out that many people wish they could nap.
It took many years for the vegetarian community to make a revolution, but they are now trending. Let’s make napping the next trend.
Post Illustration by Adar Moritz
Good stuff is on the way.
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