This a very interesting article on the benefits of napping from Productivity SA Newsletter for January
Napping and Productivity
A general consensus has emerged over the years that people nap not to recover from last night’s party, but more often than not to make up for early-morning commutes, long work hours, and too many responsibilities at home. After a little nap, they feel more alert and do a better job. In fact, some American companies are changing their personnel rules to allow a daily nap. The U.S. trucking and rail industries have instituted napping policies. Hospitals are looking into it. In some Asian companies, a nap is required.
While in the past sleeping on the job used to be grounds for dismissal, years after Cornell University psychologist James Maas coined the term “power nap,” companies are beginning to embrace the practice. Today, Nike and Deloitte Consulting are among those that encourage employees to add a midday snooze to their to-do lists. Sleep scientists and researchers welcome this trend. In short, findings indicate that napping can enhance productivity.
There are reported cases from China that there are napping-imposed rules, a time when the lights go down, and everyone has to put their head on the desk and nap, with results that a brief nap may provide greater alertness for several hours, and can improve attention, concentration, accuracy, and productivity. In other words, a sweet little catnap can make your afternoon a whole lot better.
Research studies on sleep deprivation shows that even at six hours a night, there are all sorts of changes in the body. Insulin rises to pre-diabetes levels. There is an increase in heart disease. Without sleep you do not learn. In addition, research shows that people deteriorate during the day. It is difficult to sustain productivity. Naps can add back to the sleep the body is deprived of at night. In particular, a nap enhances productivity even if a body could have enough nocturnal sleep.
Of course, midday siestas date back centuries as a means of escaping the afternoon heat in hot climes, as in Spain. However several recent studies reveal medical explanations for why naps increase productivity, too. In 2010, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed that napping can improve the brain’s ability to retain information, noting that a middle-of-the-day reprieve “not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before.” Two years earlier, at the University of Haifa in Israel, researchers found that naps help “speed up the process of long term memory consolidation,” while the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Atlanta concluded in 2007 that a short catnap during the day “may be a useful strategy to improve not only mood but also job satisfaction”.
A nap involves different stages of sleep that lead to different kinds of improvements. Rapid eye movement [REM] sleep, for example, is good for improving creativity and perceptual ability. Slow-wave [deep] sleep is good for restoring muscle function. The formula helps you harness those.
A twenty (20) minute nap in the afternoon, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., right after lunch, would be ideal. You do not want to get into deep sleep, because you need to be alert. This nap will allow you to be as productive right after the nap as you were before. That is what a lot of businesspeople need for on-your-feet thinking.
It is necessary that corporates and other sized enterprises CEOs must recognise that napping does not take away from productivity. It is not an embarrassment. It can be compared to telecommuting. When that began, it had a bad name. Working at home was for people who were lazy. Then CEOs realised they were getting more from employees who were allowed to work at home. Predictably the same will happen for napping.
Napping at the office becomes beneficial if it forms part of the culture of the enterprise. As such every employee can be encouraged to get rid of nap blockers such as too much caffeine or alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with that morning coffee at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. if someone is going to nap at 1 o’clock. But while alcohol makes the body tired, it disrupts the sleep cycle. At the same time employees need to remove the mental blocks or stigma such as thinking that they are not being productive or that they are being lazy if they nap.
Regular naps can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Studies have also shown that chronic drowsiness during the workday can cause slower reaction times, an inability to concentrate, and difficulty remembering information over longer periods of time.
Therefore napping has both health and productivity benefits.