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Want success on the job? Take a nap

(MoneyWatch) When that afternoon drowsiness hits, do you: A) Grab a cup of coffee? B) Take a brisk walk around your office building? C) Plow through and wait for it to pass? D) Pay about $10 to lie down in bed and take a nap?

If you answered D), you may be Chilean. One company in the South American country, Espacio Siestario, rents out space for naps (Not that this says anything about Chileans' work ethic -- the average person there works 2,068 hours per year, compared to the average American's 1,695 hours.) Yet while taking a nap may not be culturally acceptable, even in South America where it used to be standard, that doesn't mean our bodies -- and brains -- won't function better with an afternoon snooze.

One NASA study showed that even a 20-minute nap can increase your cognitive function, and even relieve headaches. What business wouldn't want people to be thinking better? That 20 minutes of "down" time could produce brighter, more focused individuals.

Of course, the reality is that in most countries taking a nap is impractical. First of all, where do you lay down? Some experts recommend putting an eye covering on and laying your head on your desk for 15 minutes as a way to gain some of the boost that an afternoon nap would give you. But that's not generally an option for the many employees who work in cubicles or in an open office.

Unless you've already established yourself as the genius office eccentric (easier said than done), putting your head down in a cube and drifting into dreamland is likely to get you branded as lazy. Plus, what if you're not an office worker? Your manufacturing supervisor isn't likely to let you walk off the floor, and if everyone is on break at the same time, chances of finding a quiet spot in the break room is nil.

If you're blessed with an office door that closes, it should be simple to rest your eyes for a bit by turning your phone to silent and blocking out a 20-minute hiatus on your daily calendar. 

If you're a manager and one of your employees expresses interest in taking a bit of shut eye, consider allowing and encouraging it. You may well get back in productivity what you lose in lost time. If you work at home, you may be in the best position to take a short nap. Perhaps this is one factor that accounts for the generally higher productivity of remote workers.

But no matter where you work, don't feel bad or lazy if you're drowsy in the afternoon -- that's just a result of your natural body rhythms. Take a nap if you can.

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