With overbooked schedules, meetings that bleed into one another and the pressure to be on 24/7, professionals are always looking for another way to prolong their productivity. Those who are skilled at the fine art of nodding off on a whim praise the benefits of a power nap.
As you can guess, this short stint of sleep is meant to boost our creativity and ease our mental hiccups. In fact, it’s become so popular, it was recently added to the Cambridge Dictionary. By definition, leadership development and career expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker shares that intentional periods of sleep have the sole purpose of recharging our bodies and minds and typically last 30 minutes or less. One way to think about them is hitting the ‘restart’ button when something’s not working. When that something is you, a power nap is a handy skill to master.
Here, a guide to everything you need to know about power napping:
They allow you to focus.
Much like love and friendship, you can’t force genius. Even if you had the best intentions of rattling through your to-do list, sometimes your brain doesn’t agree with your goal. That’s where power naps give us the ability to take a breather and try to drum up our motivation again. Whittaker-Walker says most people will find increased clarity, and heightened focus once they awake from the slumber.
“With so much going on, it’s easy to lose focus or become overwhelmed with office happenings. A quick power nap can help us to return to our work with a fresh perspective,” she continues.
They are healthier than giving into a sugar craving
Though lunch will give you a slight pick-me-up, a few hours later, you’ll be dragging again, as your blood sugar levels drop. Most people use this opportunity to give in to a hunger craving — but not always a healthy one. Blended coffee drinks with whipped cream, a cake pop and a slice of banana bread seem great in theory but they won’t do much for your work performance, according to career expert Carla Isabel Carstens.
Instead, allowing yourself to sleep will work more wonders. “A short power nap will have you waking up not only refreshed, but studies show it will boost productivity as well,” she continues. “If you’re feeling low energy and unable to retain information, let alone brainstorm creative solutions at work, book a conference room, set a 20 minute timer, and recharge. You’ll wake up with a boost of creative energy.”
They are helpful to release tension.
Take a moment to address how you’re feeling throughout your body. How do your hands feel on your keyboard? How are you sitting? Does your back hurt? What about those wrists? Do you have dry eyes? Without realizing it, work puts a tremendous amount of strain on our every inch — internally and externally. As sleep coach and psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva, MD explains, the muscles around our eyes are very small and sensitive to when your body feels tired. The same is true for our bodies when we are under pressure or feeling overwhelmed, causing most of us to squeeze and tense. “When your eyes start to twitch it is a glaring message to you that they need some rest. A power nap gives your entire body a chance to let go of that tension — and subsequent stressful feelings — and approach the rest of the day in a calmer space,” she explains.
The timing should be matched to your chronotype
Everyone has a different chronotype based on the time of day they feel the most in-the-zone. Though some are early risers who can go heads-down from the minute they wake up, others prefer to burn the midnight oil. Sleep expert and author Tara Youngblood explains our chronotype is a genetically-driven clock that manages all body functions including sleep.
When we identify our personal one, we can determine the ideal time frame for a short sleep. “We can see how this clock can help us with napping when we map our body temperature, timing, and sleep habits,” she continues. “The same temperature drop that kicks off during night sleep happens after lunch. Matching the timing to your power nap can help you get more out of your 20 to 30 minutes.”
They boost your energy
As Whittaker-Walker puts it, some days — and ahem, some people — are draining. It’s likely impossible to adore everyone you spend time with at the office but part of being a professional is adapting to various personalities and styles. Especially if you’re a leader, charged with bringing a team to their highest performance level, you may end up exhausted by noon.
To get your energy back, Whittaker-Walker says a power nap will provide the boost you crave. “Power naps give the mind and body time to relax and can provide the jolt of energy needed to finish the day without dragging,” she raves.
They can be more effective with caffeine
Sometimes, people struggle with napping since it seems to have the opposite impact, leaving you feeling more tired than you were before you laid down. Though the disoriented feeling does change with more practice, there are ways to trick your body into adapting to a power nap routine, according to Youngblood. She suggests a ‘caf nap’ that utilizes caffeine to wake you up. She notes caffeine takes twenty minutes to metabolize so drinking it before your nap means you will wake up at the end. Win-win!