The Simple Science Behind Power Naps: Enhance Your Work Performance with Short, Strategic Sleep

kitty power nap

Not all of us are morning people and some of us need a nap to function at our optimum. However, napping at work has traditionally been a big no-no. But scientific research has now blown that outdated approach out of the proverbial water. 

Rather than being a hallmark of laziness and inefficiency, power naps can boost your productivity.

Find out why a short nap during the day is good for business and to learn the secrets of effective power napping.

What The Research Says

A Paychex survey of 1,000 people found that 81% of respondents said they experienced a sudden dip in their energy levels several hours into their workday. The dip is known colloquially as the afternoon crash. The afternoon crash happened to those respondents an average of 3.2 days a week. The crash is real, and there’s a good chance you’ve experienced it yourself. Power naps are the antidote.

puppy nap

In 2020, Pedro Bessone and Frank Schilbach, two researchers from MIT Sloane School, found that data-entry employees’ productivity increased by 2.3% after three weeks of 30-minute naps every day. Those employees also invested more money in their savings accounts.

The researchers weren’t alone in making a finding like that. In 2009, Harvard Medical School reported that a study found that a short midday nap is better than caffeine or sleeping more at night to overcome mid-afternoon drowsiness. 

The study also found that, while napping for a few minutes has its benefits, the possible ideal nap length is between 20 and 30 minutes. Any longer, and you risk being affected by post-sleep grogginess known as sleep inertia. Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that people who power nap are 34% less likely to die from heart problems.

The National Sleep Foundation has also expressed support for power naps. According to the Foundation, a nap of no longer than 30 minutes can improve your performance, make you more alert, and reduce accidents and mistakes at work—and those aren’t the only benefits.

The Benefits Of Power Napping

As we saw above, several studies have shown that power naps can improve productivity, overcome mid-afternoon drowsiness, and lower the likelihood of potentially lethal heart problems. Power naps can lower the cortisol (the “stress hormone”) level in your blood and boost your immune system, too.

yawning cat

Salk Institute studies found that napping appropriately can keep nappers’ mood, memory, and brain activity at a consistently higher level than compared to people who don’t nap. Non-nappers’ brain activity, mood, and memory levels decrease as the day goes on. Altogether, the benefits revealed by these studies include:

  • Power naps enhance your brain function
  • Napping increases your alertness, making you less likely to make mistakes
  • Power naps enhance your ability to process and store information
  • Napping boosts your productivity at work
  • Power napping improves your memory
  • Naps boost your mood
  • Power naps support healthy heart function and can lower your blood pressure

With those benefits in mind, let’s take a look at how to power nap effectively.

How To Power Nap

There’s more to power napping than dozing in your office chair, on your sofa, or on your bed for an hour whenever you please. In fact, if you’re doing that, you’re doing it wrong. The secrets of effective power napping include:

1. Nap Sometime Around 2pm or 3pm

Timing is important when it comes to power napping. If you work an 8 to 5 job, the best time to nap is around 2pm or 3pm, which is when the afternoon crash usually happens. If you experience the afternoon crash earlier or later, adjust the timing accordingly. Listen to your body, but try not to nap after 4pm, which can interrupt your sleep schedule at night.

2. Limit Your Caffeine Intake Earlier In The Day

Don’t consume too much caffeine earlier in the day, whether it’s in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks, or energy bars. Too much caffeine in your system can make it difficult for you to fall asleep when you want to have your power nap.

3. Reduce Your Chances Of Disruptions

Disruptions will reduce the effectiveness of your power nap. Choose a place that’s quiet and turn off electronic devices that could disrupt your nap, such as your phone. If external noises could potentially disrupt your nap, think about using earplugs.

4. Nap In A Dark Room

Darken the room as much as possible, as too much light or bright colors can disturb you when you try to nap. Draw the blinds and turn off the lights. Darkness lets your body know that it’s time to rest and it stimulates melatonin production by the pineal gland. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleep.

5. Make Yourself Comfortable

You will struggle to fall and stay asleep if you are not comfortable. Lying back in your chair or sleeping with your head on your arms on your desk is not ideal. If possible, lie down on an office sofa and use a cushion for additional comfort and support. 

Consider investing in a small comforter or light blanket and a pillow that you can keep at the office (or take to the office) for your power naps. The room temperature should be too cool or too warm, so use the air conditioning to regulate the temperature, if need be.

6. Calm Your Mind

Do your best to nap in a zone free from stressors, and try to let go of any nagging concerns, worries, or other thoughts. Before you lie down for your power nap, remind yourself that the next 15 to 30 minutes are yours and yours only. You can tackle unfinished work, issues, or other problems once you have recharged.

7. Set An Alarm

The ideal length for a power nap is between 15 and 30 minutes. Any longer, and you could wake up with sleep inertia, which could include grogginess, a headache, a bad mood, or difficulty falling asleep that night. Set an alarm so you know you won’t oversleep.

8. Wake Up Gently

If you feel disorientated after your power nap, don’t worry. Give yourself the chance to wake up gently. Splash your face with cold water and rub your arms and legs, which will help you to wake up and to feel like you’re back in your body. 

Nap For Power

As you can see, research proves that power naps really can recharge your battery, boost your productivity, and offer you many other benefits. Use the tips above to nap effectively and make the most of your time—asleep and awake.

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