Not long ago, taking a nap at work probably would’ve gotten you fired.
Now, things have changed. Though the practice hasn’t caught on everywhere, the idea of napping at work is gaining traction within many progressive companies, where leaders and managers are waking up to the connection between being well-rested and being happy and productive at the workplace.
Napping pods have been a thing at forward-thinking tech places like Google and Zappos for a while. But the trend isn’t just contained to Silicon Valley. Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, British Airways, and even Pizza Hut are cool with employees snoozing on the job.
And once you learn more about the awesome benefits, you’ll probably give work naps the thumbs up, too. Read on to learn more about how napping at work can boost your performance—plus how to make daytime naps work for you.
Why Napping at Work is a Good Thing
Fatigue, crankiness, and feeling frazzled tend to go hand in hand—none of which are very useful in helping you do your best on the job. But once you’ve got some rest in your system, you start to feel happier, calmer, and more able to cope with whatever hectic stuff is thrown your way.
“Naps improve mood and the ability to manage stress,” says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Last-minute client report? After a quick snooze, you can handle it.
Short siestas can boost your performance, too, so you end up producing higher quality work. In fact, “they’ve been shown to reduce accidents and mistakes at work while improving attention, concentration, and alertness,” Harris says.
How to Nap Smarter at Work
Workday naps are a lot like meetings with your crazy busy boss: Since you’ve only got a short amount of time, you’ve got to make them count. To make your midday interlude effective and energizing rather than pointless and grog-inducing, consider these tips:
- Pick the right time. Even though a nap is short, taking one too late in the day can make it tougher to fall asleep at night. “If you typically go to bed between 10 PM and midnight, try not to nap after 2 PM,” Harris recommends.
- Pair it with caffeine. Sure, it sounds totally counterintuitive. But research suggests that downing a cup of coffee before a 15-minute nap is actually more energizing than napping or consuming caffeine alone.
- Get comfortable. Can’t swing a napping pod or under-the-desk hideaway a la George Costanza? No problem. When paired with a soft pillow and thin blanket, a desk chair that reclines a little bit can work wonders.
- Keep it short and sweet. “The key is the length of the nap—think twenty minutes,” Harris says. “Any longer than that, and you might get into deeper stages of sleep.” Once that happens, you’ll end up feeling sluggish and moody whenever you do wake up. Not so great for your 3:30 meeting.
- Minimize distractions. Since you’ve only got 20 minutes, you want to fall asleep fast—and stay asleep the entire time. So close your door and turn off your phone. If you can, wear earplugs or listen to a podcast to drown out background noise.
- If you’re not actually tired, don’t do it. You probably won’t fall asleep anyway, which means you’re probably just wasting your time. Save the daytime nap for days when you’re really feeling zonked!
If You Can’t Snooze at Work, Do This Instead
In a perfect world, we’d all get a 20-minute afternoon nap break just like in kindergarten. And though more workplaces are becoming nap-friendly, not everyone is convinced that daytime dozing will become the norm.
“I think [napping at work] may be and would be a good idea. But we’re in such a high stress, 24/7 world that many people may worry about losing productivity or missing those important messages while napping,” Harris says.
Which means that, if power naps are a no go at your workplace, you’ll need to find other ways to stay energized during the day. In large part, that means getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. (Some people might be able to get by on less, but if you struggle to get out of bed when your alarm goes off or find yourself yawning by mid-morning, you’re not one of them.)
To improve your odds of getting enough snooze time at night, make these no-fail sleep rules non-negotiable:
- Keep your internal clock in sync by picking a regular bedtime and sticking to it.
- Make exercise a regular part of your routine.
- Establish a nighttime routine that’s sleep-friendly. Eat a light dinner, and wind down with quiet activities that don’t involve your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and comfortable. (That might mean evaluating whether your mattress is outdated or keeping Fido and Fluffy out of the room.)
Still, the stress of a crazy day at work can sometimes even leave super sleepers feeling draggy by mid-afternoon. When you’re dying for a pick-me-up but know that your boss would flip if she found you catching forty winks, try these daytime energizers instead.
- Utilize caffeine strategically. There’s no shame in turning to a cuppa joe for a quick energy jolt, so long as it isn’t messing with your sleep at night. Since it takes caffeine about six hours to leave your system, just make sure to cut off your intake by 3 or 4 PM. If coffee leaves you jittery, try green tea. It’s combo of caffeine and calming theobromine might give you a chiller, more focused sort of energy.
- Skip the sad desk lunch. Rather than dine in your cubicle, “try having lunch outside,” suggests Harris. Exposure to natural light makes you feel good—and suppresses the production of the snooze-inducing hormone melatonin.
- Strike a pose. We don’t recommend going full-on stretching in your work clothes. But taking a five-minute stretch break can be both energizing and uplifting. For a quick boost, try office-friendly moves like chair stretch or a quick standing forward bend.
- Take a whiff. Energizing scents like lemon, rosemary, and peppermint leave you stimulated, focused, and alert, helping you power through the task at hand. Display a small bouquet of the fresh herbs on your desk, or keep a bottle of lemon essential oil stashed in your drawer. Even without the midday nap, you’ll feel like the Energizer Bunny. Well, maybe!
Do you work somewhere that allows or encourages midday naps? Share your experiences with us!