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Napping on the Job

By Patrick Cisler

It’s 9:00, the night before my article is due, and I am scrambling to think of what I can write about for the newsletter. The more I brainstorm about what to write, the more tired I become. And then it hits me; if only I had a nap earlier today, I would be more productive in my late night thinking.

However, naps (for adults) are frowned upon in American culture. We are taught at a young age that one must be productive and work as diligently as possible throughout the day. Naps are something you wait until Sunday afternoon to do while lying on the couch watching football. I’ll admit, when I lived in Spain, I could never fully understand why most jobs started early in the morning, had normal lunch, but then workers followed that up with a 2 hour nap, only to go back to work afterwards. At the time I thought, ‘What a waste of a day.’ Wouldn’t you want to do all your work in as short a timeframe as possible so you can get out earlier? My opinion has since changed.

I now disagree with popular American consensus on the issue of naps during the workweek. Naps serve an important purpose in the day, especially if one ultimately hopes to be as productive as their employers desire them to be. I don’t believe the 2-hour break that follows lunch is necessary (such as occurs in Spain), but I do believe a nap can largely be a benefit. Tom Kelley, in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation, writes about this topic. Kelley describes how brainstorming in their organization IDEO often happens early in the day, “when energy and creativity seem to peak.” He goes on to say, “Only recently has the idea occurred to us that with a good nap in the middle of the day, perhaps you could get two peaks, like having two mornings in the same day.” This thinking is largely affirmed by the fact that many famous people and organizations have embraced “powernaps” over the years, including NASA, Thomas Edison, JFK, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. In fact, Albert Einstein once stated that naps ‘refreshed the mind.’

Being an “early to bed, early to rise” individual myself, I fully embrace the midday 20-minute powernap. The majority of my meetings occur during the morning hours and, therefore, by lunchtime I am often ready for a rest. A quick nap allows me to get rejuvenated for the often more creative work that happens in the afternoon and on into the evening. The mid-afternoon slowdown is why products like 5-Hour Energy have done so well. These companies understand that mid-afternoon is the time when your body naturally starts to slow down. Rather than fight the system with caffeine, I often listen to my body. I can’t say this happens everyday, but I certainly can notice my productivity levels go up on days I can nap. However, I realize I am simply providing an idea without a solution. Most individuals go to their office and stay there until the end of the workday. This creates a more difficult obstacle to napping during the day, but nevertheless, it’s possible. If you can pull it off, your mind, body, and ultimately, your work will be better for it.

If you are still undecided…sleep on it.

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