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Sleep Your Way to a More Productive Day

2986754704_30805230ab_m.jpgIt's now approaching 2 p.m., the time of day where my circuits get fried and I hit the dreaded mid-afternoon slump. There are lots of ways to supposedly beat this energy lag, but my favorite one -- catching a few winks -- is often frowned upon in an office environment.

But the truth is there's growing evidence that a well-timed nap can do more to enhance your productivity than all the double-shot espressos Starbucks has to offer.

Today, Lifehacker excerpted new science news that found that deep, "slow-wave" sleep can help us commit information to memory and learn new skills. Study participants enjoyed a 90-minute nap, but according to the AP story, even a 12-minute nap can boost some forms of memory.

Earlier this year, Psychology Today reported that a power nap of about 20 minutes has been proven to increase alertness and overall productivity in workers, as well as boosting mood. A NASA study found that naps of just 26 minutes can boost workers' output by as much as 34 percent. And a study of ER doctors and nurses found that 40-minute naps resulted in better alertness, mood, and performance.

So why aren't we all allowed -- heck, encouraged -- to nap on the job? Mostly because employers don't believe they should pay workers to sleep. But if you consider the return on investment for a power snooze versus a lunch, coffee, or cigarette break, it seems like a bargain.

If you want to experiment with a power nap, don't just doze off; plan on how to take the perfect snooze. Some of the basics:

  • Time it for between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM. (other experts say 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM).
  • Don't sleep for more than 30 minutes (set an alarm). Otherwise, you could sleep for hours or wake with a headache and a bad mood.
  • Drink a cool glass of water when you wake to clear your head.
Your boss doesn't support siestas? Get creative -- sleep in an empty office or storeroom, or even in your car -- or try to get him on board by sharing the research. There's plenty more scientific ammunition out there for you to find.

I'd point you in the right direction, but I think I'll go hit the hay instead. All this nap talk is making me sleepy.

(image by gemsling via Flickr, CC 2.0)