I have taken four naps at work in the past week alone, amounting to about an hour of shut eye while on the clock. And the most surprising part is that I feel no uncertainty or shame about falling asleep at work. On the contrary, I couldn’t feel better about it, and my workplace productivity says so too.
Now, I know that a work nap is one of those unspeakable workplace taboos that we are trained to look down on, such as going out for a stroll in the middle of a workday, leaving your desk for lunch, or working remotely. If we see someone blissfully catching a snooze at 2 p.m. while we laboriously type out memos or try to pacify an unrelenting client, we automatically assume that they are “slacking off”. But as far as assumptions go, this couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s rather unfortunate that recharging and restfulness can take a back seat to the perception of productivity in most run-of-the-mill workplaces. Its simpler to keep the hamster wheel of activity running by responding to every email as soon as it pops up, than to measure aggregate productivity over a greater period of time. However, in my pursuit of greater productivity, I will leverage a growing field of psychological and occupational research to vouch for restfulness and the power of a work nap for boosting productivity at workplaces.
Science Says A Work Nap Is Worth It!
A study published in Nature Neuroscience, measured the perceptual performance of test subjects four times throughout the day. As it turned out, Performance deteriorated with each subsequent test. However, it was found that those who took a 30-minute work nap between tests saw a vast improvement in performance while those who took a 60-minute nap even reversed it.
The author of “Take a Nap! Change Your Life”, Dr. Mednick, is of the opinion that daytime taking a nap at work offers the same magnitude of benefits as a full night sleep, and different types of work naps offer different benefits. For instance, a work nap lasting 20- to 60 minutes help with learning and memorization, since it’s not too long as to make you groggy but long enough to let you enter stage-two sleep, or non-rapid eye movement (R.E.M.) sleep. Researchers at Saarland University in Germany found that napping at work for 45–60 minutes could dramatically enhance learning and memory. Participants proved five times better at remembering pairs of words after they had napped for that period.
If you cross over the 60 minutes threshold, you enter into the R.E.M stage of sleep, that deep sleep we all enjoy at night. This stage of sleep improves associative thinking, perceptual processing, and creativity. This stage is where your mind makes connections between disparate ideas. Beyond that, your best bet is a 90-minute work nap, which will give you a full sleep cycle. Nevertheless, any type of nap you take will inevitably boost perception and alertness and cut through the general fog that clouds your brain during the day.
Researchers have also discovered that power naps serve to boost right-brain activity. The left hemisphere of the brain is linked to analytics, while the right hemisphere is associated with creative tasks. Studies at University of California and the Harvard Medical School say that you are more creative after having woken up from REM sleep. The researchers from Harvard have proven that REM sleep makes the brain more flexible and open to newer ways of thinking.
For instance, HubSpot has a nap room with soothing cloud-covered walls and hammocks suspended above a plush carpet to allow its employees to catch some sleep at work. Most employees happily assert that a 20-minute nap is often all they require to re-invigorate and regain focus to be more productive for the rest of the day. Nike’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon has nap rooms where employees can mediate or catch a few z’s. Similarly, the London-based online marketing agency Reboot, has a dedicated quiet room where employees can retreat to take a nap if they are feeling drowsy.
Nap Time Contraptions That Turn Your Workspace Into A Comfortable Sleep Zone
As much as a power nap would benefit your workplace productivity, taking a nap in front of your colleagues in the office, isn’t exactly appropriate. You wouldn’t want to be caught dead sleeping with your mouth hanging open, or god forbid, snoring in your seat. On the other hand, it can be really uncomfortable to nap in the chair with your head on the desk. We see people falling asleep at work all the time or heading over to their cars or the restroom to rest for a while. What was missing was a workplace solution for fatigue.
With the stigma of napping at work slowly fading into the backdrop, innovators have been coming up with clever inventions to help you catch a good nap. For instance, the Greek designer, Nancy Leivaditou, of Studio NL, has one of the most ingenious solutions to this dilemma – a two meters long and 0.8 meters wide multipurpose desk which can morph into a bed on activation. This is the perfect way to let employees sleep at work without any discomfort or shame.
From what we know of this amazing contraption, its upper layer is a sturdy piece of lacquered wood with a mattress attached to one side. The two sides designed to accommodate the feet and head, are propped up by plywood that can be reclined. Simply slide the top board backward from the sitting position, and you’re ready for a nap! It even has a built-in TV to help you unwind if you don’t want to take a nap. Napping at work has never been easier!
Similarly, we have the EnergyPods, the first chairs specifically designed for workplace snoozing. The chair creates a zero-gravity sleeping position most of us crave for in the midst of a boring workday. Its sleek design helps it consume the most minimal space. The EnergyPod includes soothing voice guides and specially designed music to calm you to sleep. It also employs vibration and light to aid in sleep and waking.