World Sleep Day: I tried napping in the middle of the workday | Ladders

For me, midday naps had pros and cons.
Science of Work

I tried napping in the middle of the workday. Here’s what I learned.

Naps aren’t just a great Saturday afternoon activity. They can also, according to some studies, do wonders for your productivity during the workweek.

For example, a study showed that NASA pilots who took a 25-minute nap were 35% more alert and two times as focused as those who didn’t. Other studies have found 10- to 20-minute “power naps” can boost alertness and help improve our ability to focus.

I decided to do an informal experiment to see if a midday nap during the workday would positively affect my productivity level.

My rules were pretty straightforward: I had to nap sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (so that it was truly the middle of my workday), my naps were 25 minutes in length, and I had to do at least two hours of work afterwards to see if there was any effect on how much I was getting done.

After four days, here are three things I learned.

1. I felt more productive — several hours later

I didn’t wake up from my naps feeling more alive and ready to take on the world. There was a period of disorientation followed by some extended grogginess, and since I was napping when I should have been working, that fuzzy post-nap feeling wasn’t all great for my workflow.

What was interesting, however, was that I was more productive one to two hours after napping during times when I’d normally be in a down period.

I’m usually someone who’s most productive in the early morning and late at night, and I go through a slump in the early afternoon after I eat lunch. While napping at 11 a.m. made me groggy around lunchtime, it did make me feel more awake around 1 p.m. than I normally am, which was great for powering through work that I may have otherwise procrastinated.

2. I had trouble going to sleep on command

Even if we’re exhausted by the end of the day, most of us take at least a few minutes to fall asleep at night — and napping is no different. By the time I got settled and started to feel drowsy, half of my scheduled nap time was already over.

On the last day, I tried something called the 4-7-8 breath exercise from a holistic physician named Dr. Andrew Weil to see if it would help me relax and go to sleep more quickly. The exercise calls for touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth while you breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts. As someone who has trouble shutting her brain off, the technique helped me relax.

Another idea would be to give myself extra time to fall asleep.

3. Drinking caffeine before didn’t help right away

Studies have shown that ingesting caffeine before resting can lead to a feeling of alertness right after, so I was curious to see if this would do anything during my midday nap.

While I’m not a coffee drinker, I do drink incredibly strong green tea, so I drank a cup about 15 minutes before settling in for my workday siesta.

I didn’t have the “woke up feeling alive” reaction that many people in studies have reported, but I definitely felt that caffeinated alertness about an hour after napping.

Are mid-work naps worth it?

Of course, I can only speak from my personal experience after four days of midday naps. The biggest question I still have is whether feeling more productive a couple hours after the nap is worth the grogginess I felt when I woke up.

While I don’t think I’d be able to do a midday nap as part of my routine every day, it might be worth it on days when I need to get a lot done during the afternoon and can’t afford my typical post-lunch slump.

Lily Herman is a New York-based writer, editor, and social media manager.

Lily Herman

Lily Herman is a New York-based writer, editor, and social media manager whose recent bylines include Fast Company, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Newsweek, ELLE, Teen Vogue, and TIME. You can check out her personal website and find her perpetually on Twitter.