Improve Your Work Performance By Taking A Nap

This January, Curiosity is digging into the science of productivity. Start your 2017 on the right foot with our full series on scientifically proven ways to do more, faster.

It's about 3 pm on a work day, and you're experiencing the dreaded midday slump. Before you gulp another mug of caffeine, consider a different option: napping. You might've dismissed naps as a respite for toddlers or your 80-year-old grandmother, but science has proven that naps can be incredibly beneficial for getting those brain juices flowing and boosting your productivity.

Related: The Surprising Side Effects Of Your Sleep Schedule

Nip Burnout In The Bud

People who run on four hours of sleep each night while enduring a strenuous workload are on a fast track to experiencing burnout. What's that? Burnout might feel similar to depression, but it's a bit different. While depression can have a number of causes and is typically addressed with therapy and/or antidepressants, burnout is the effect of prolonged work-related stress, and your body's way of begging for some TLC. In addition to exercise and healthy eating, you desperately need the recommended amount of sleep (7–9 hours) to fire on all cylinders.

Related: How Screens Can Disrupt Your Sleep

If you're thinking "Well, Curiosity—I wish I had the luxury of sleeping 7 hours," you're certainly not alone. While a demanding career and hectic home life might prevent you from hitting the hay early, taking a midday nap could be the answer (not copious amounts of caffeine). According to a 2009 review in the Journal of Sleep Research, the benefits of "replacement napping" have been confirmed by several studies. Napping is "particularly beneficial to performance on tasks, such as addition, logical reasoning, reaction time, and symbol recognition." In a 1995 study commissioned by NASA, subjects who napped for just 26 minutes showed significant improvements in "vigilance performance." The 2009 review goes a step further, stating: "even for individuals who generally get the sleep they need on a nightly basis, napping may lead to considerable benefits in terms of mood, alertness, and cognitive performance." If that doesn't provide enough evidence for your employer to implement a nap-friendly culture, studies also show that a planned work nap may improve the negative health effects of sleep deprivation—you know, like heart disease.

Related: The Money You Make Depends On The Sleep You Get

Learn How To Power Nap

According to Harvard Medical School, here are a few helpful tips for making the most of your mid-day power nap:

  • Make it quick. While even napping for just a few minutes can be helpful, Harvard recommends a 20 to 30-minute nap. Anything longer can cause sleep inertia, or grogginess.
  • Nap in a cool, dark place that's nice and quiet. These conditions generally help people fall asleep faster.
  • Pencil it in. You don't want the midday slump to hit you at an inopportune time (say, a lunch meeting), so it's best to plan for a nap when it's most convenient.
  • Schedule caffeine. Know how caffeine affects you, and plan your coffee break and nap times accordingly.
  • Feel empowered. Speak to your manager about taking a well-timed nap to make you a more productive, less burnt-out employee. (Good luck!)

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Written by Curiosity Staff January 10, 2017