“Sleeping on the job” has a negative connotation, but maybe it shouldn’t. When more than 30% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night, a nap can address some of the unpleasant effects of sleep deprivation. Although naps might seem like they’re stealing time from your already busy schedule, napping can actually increase your productivity at work.
With enough sleep, your brain is primed and ready to learn more information. After a nap, you’re less likely to forget that statistic in your presentation and more likely to come up with a creative solution to a marketing problem. You can even tailor your naps to what you have to get done in a challenging workday. Dr. Sara Mednick reports that 20 to 60-minute naps might help with memorization and learning new information. If you’re anticipating a day with major challenges, a 90-minute nap can improve creative and associative thinking.
A closer look at naps reveals that improved alertness, memorization, and creativity are common side effects. Additionally, your strengthened immune system may lead to fewer sick days.
Job performance benefits from alertness. Researcher tested the effectiveness of naps on alertness using one of the most stressful jobs, air traffic control. Scheduled naps were required during a night shift. Even a short nap that didn’t reach REM sleep increased objective measures of alertness and performance. Take a nap to make it through your mid-afternoon meeting without disengaging to play with your smartphone.
Napping may help you remember that new coworker’s name. Some learning requires “nocturnal sleep” for the new facts to cement in your mind. However, a study showed that a midday nap made participants report that they were better able to remember information. The rest also helped to halt perceived performance deterioration in tasks throughout the day. If you’re starting to feel slow to remember items during the day, a nap may reverse that trend.
More Creative Solutions
It’s hard to measure creativity objectively, but researchers believe that nappers seem to have more of it. In another study related to napping, participants had to find relations between three words. Napping helped the participants relate the words in new and useful combinations. 40% of their performance improvement could be linked to the amount of REM sleep that they got during their nap. If you have to come up with creative solutions during your workday, REM sleep could help you come up with ideas that are fresh and inspiring.
Fewer Sick Days
Unsurprisingly, getting more sleep can keep you out of the sickbed and in the office. People who get less than seven hours of sleep or don’t sleep deeply are more likely to get the common cold. Those with less than seven hours of sleep were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
Even a Little Nap Helps
You don’t need a fancy memory foam mattress on hand to reap the benefits of napping. The air traffic controllers who napped and improved their performance did so in less than ideal conditions. Most of them slept less than 20 minutes and never got close to REM sleep. However, they felt better after that short break.
Take advantage of napping as a productivity hack to avoid that mid-afternoon slump at work.