While an afternoon nap is okay if you’re under 6 or over 60, most people disapprove of naps for adults. There’s a cultural perception that time taken out to sleep in the middle of the afternoon is time you could spend being more productive. In reality, however, napping offers many benefits to people of all ages, and it could even improve your productivity.
Most adults don’t get enough sleep, but even in those who do, there’s usually a natural period of tiredness sometime in the middle of the afternoon. This often occurs about eight hours after you wake, and it can be a serious drain on your productivity.
Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee when this occurs, consider taking a short power nap. Studies have shown that this simple behavior reduces stress, helps you think more clearly, and improves alertness. You may even find that you have more patience for your job after a short snooze.
Normal Sleep Requirements
The average person needs between seven and eight hours of sleep every day, but this number can vary a lot. A small segment of the population actually suffers from impaired function on fewer than nine or 10 hours. For most, however, that much sleep produces excessive drowsiness and could indicate health problems.
Unfortunately, most adults are unlikely to suffer from problems with too much sleep: we average as little as five or six hours on weekdays and are unable to make up the deficit on weekends. Sleep deprivation has serious consequences, greatly increasing your risk of being in an auto accident even if you don’t feel tired.
Missed Sleep Adds Up
You probably already know that if you miss a little of your needed sleep one day, you’ll feel it the next. What many people don’t realize, however, is that your sleep debt will follow you until you make it up, especially if you’ve been short on sleep for weeks.
The result is impaired memory, judgment and reaction times, as well as potential damage to your vision and ability to think clearly. Many people also have trouble feeling motivated or sticking to tasks when they carry a long term sleep deficit. Burnout, higher stress levels, increased aggression and sharp mood swings are all common.
The Curative Power of Napping
Fortunately, you don’t have to get all the sleep you require at night. Just 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon can reset your energy levels temporarily. Afternoon naps may even provide more benefit than sleeping in for the same amount of time in the morning. Sometimes, earplugs and sleep shades can aid in obtaining a more restful and uninterrupted sleep.
For most people, the nap should be between 15 and 30 minutes, or just long enough to keep you in the lighter stages of sleep. While more deep sleep can feel good, it might make it harder to go to sleep again at night. Long naps could also cause you to feel groggy afterward instead of refreshed.
If you have a significant sleep deficit and have the time available, you may wish to try a one-hour nap, however. Some studies have shown that this can provide better restorative benefits than a shorter period of sleep. If possible, try experimenting with your nap patterns to figure out how long your sleep cycles are. That way, you can awaken at the end of a cycle, preventing tiredness.
No matter how long you sleep, an afternoon nap could provide serious benefits. Find some time during your workday, such as a convenient break period, and refresh yourself. You’ll feel better, work more efficiently and be healthier.