Its 3 pm in the afternoon and you are struggling to keep your eyes open. You pour yourself a cup of black coffee in a desperate attempt to stay away but let’s face it, we could all do with a nap.
Napping has been met with a lot of stigma in the past because people believe that a) makes you lazy b) is a sign that you are unfocused or unproductive or worse c) that napping is a waste of time. Fortunately, science tells us otherwise. Regular naps are good for you and we are about to tell you how.
We are a generation of the chronically sleep deprived. During the week, we burn the candle at both ends with a stressful 9-5 followed by drinks with your colleagues from 7 to midnight. By the time we return home, we are so tired and find it difficult to wind down and go to bed.
Some of us are of the belief that we can catch up on our sleep by sleeping in on the weekends but research suggests that this is not really the case. Luckily for us, workplaces and thought leaders like Arianna Huffington are doing their best to destigmatise sleep and to incorporate nap time in the workplace. Naps are a crucial form of self-care. They are highly restorative, can be done almost anywhere and the best part- they is free.
If you see, lack of sleep, in the long term, can lead to immune suppression, lower productivity, health problems and absenteeism in the workplace. Whereas, allowing and encouraging employees to prioritise nap time can do the opposite. Think enhanced immune function, improved memory, mental alertness and better cardiovascular health. Lets deep dive into the benefits, shall we?
- It can make you a better learner- a lot of us at school were encouraged day time naps during exam time to help us with retention and it turns out, there was merit to this. In fact, a study that examined the behaviour of regular nappers vs non-nappers found that the group that napped were better at retention and recall than the other group. One must note that these cognitive benefits were only noticed with the regular nappers, not people who chose to take a nap occasionally.
- It might help you with your weight loss goals. This study has linked sleep deprivation with weight gain, especially around the middle. Regular napping can help with hormone regulation particularly ghrelin and leptin (those responsible for appetite and satiety).
- It can help you manage stress better. Corporate employees particularly those working overtime regularly have higher cortisol levels, which can increase your risk for cardiac episodes and stroke. To prevent this and to help manage stressors better, a short 30-minute nap can definitely help.
- It can help you feel less anxious. Let’s face it, without sleep, we are groggy, cranky and become highly reactive. Studies have shown that regular afternoon naps can help you manage your anxiety better and make you more pleasant to have around the workplace. It is a win-win we think and it’s about time we explored it for the sake of our mental health.
- it enhances your mental faculties, making you more alert and improving your reaction time. A study funded by the National Sleep Association found that a 40-minute nap enhanced alertness by 100% in pilots and astronauts. Now, isn’t that something that should compel us all to take naps more regularly?
- Afternoon siestas are good for your heart. It comes as no surprise that in the Mediterranean region, men that take a regular short nap during work hours are less likely to have an incidence of cardiovascular disease than those that don’t.
The Mediterranean countries, also regarded as longevity hotspots, prioritise an afternoon siesta. Shops shut down, people go back home to their families and all activities are on hold under siesta hour is up. Once that’s done, the shops open up for business again and all is well with the world, except almost everyone returns feeling invigorated and energised post the nap. Japan, too, has a term for this- “inemuri“. Contrary to popular belief, this is an inherent part of Japanese culture and its residents’ nap at restaurants, on park benches, on the subway, at work (and the boss approves too).
So much so that companies like Ben & Jerry, Google, Huffington Post, NASA, Thrive Global are just some companies that emphasise the need for a daytime nap in their work culture. We would hope that companies in the East also realise the mind+body benefits that come with napping and how a significant sleep debt can hurt the health of the employee and company culture.
The burning question is how often should one nap and for how long? Well, for optimised performance without the grogginess, we would say a 20-30 minute nap, around the same time every day. Any more and you’ll be feeling sleepy and irritable the whole day. So the rule is to get just about 30 minutes for best results.
For all of us at Ojas Way, we cannot stress enough on the restorative power of sleep and naps, here’s hoping we’ll see improved productivity, less sick days and more nap pods around corporate and startups all over the world. Now please excuse us, while we go and enjoy a delicious mid-afternoon nap (without the guilt).