Is a daytime nap the secret to business success?

According to Google…yes! So much so, that its Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California, are kitted out with high tech sleep pods, where employees can go to recharge their batteries. These EnergyPods are said to incorporate NASA science, enclosing the occupant within a private space which shuts out any external stimuli, and reclining them in the optimum resting position to provide maximum blood flow throughout their body. If that’s not enough, there’s a built-in Bose music system for those who like to drift off listening to something relaxing, and a timer system gently wakes the occupant using light and vibration when it is time to get up.

While Google’s EnergyPods may seem like an extravagance, insomnia costs the average American worker 11.3 days and $2,280 in “lost productivity” each year. A study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Ronald C. Kessler, found the US as a whole loses $63.2 billion (252.7 days) annually to tiredness and lack of sleep. Google isn’t alone in its support of daytime naps, with Facebook, NASA and Procter & Gamble being among other companies who are experimenting with sleep pods within the office environment, measuring the impact they have upon productivity and overall worker health.

Of course the daytime siesta is a common tradition in some parts of the world, and particularly the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, where the weather is warm. Originating in Spain, the word siesta comes from theSpanish language but originally derives from the Latin word hora sexta meaning “sixth hour” (counting from dawn). As the name suggests, the siesta is typically taken after lunch, at the point when many of us experience a natural dip in energy levels due to our circadian rhythms, which signal our ideal timing for a restorative sleep.

The benefits of daytime naps are well-proven, in terms of their ability to improve alertness and mental focus, as well as overall health and body resilience. A NASA study showed a 34% boost in performance and 100% increase in alertness, as a result of a 26 minute power nap.

“Sleep makes us more productive, creative, less stressed and much healthier and happier,” says HuffPost President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington, who has recently published a book on the subject of sleep. “Even a 20-minute nap in the middle of the day can make a huge difference. I grew up thinking that if you work around the clock, you are going to be more effective, and I realise that is not true.”

Many highly regarded historical and modern day business people have admitted to taking regular power naps. Leonardo da Vinci allegedly took 15-minute naps every four hours, and Salvador Dali invented the micro nap, which involved falling into a deep sleep for just a few seconds. Former US president Bill Clinton made no secret of his reliance on daytime naps, and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reportedly scheduled an hour-long nap in the middle of each afternoon.

But despite the tradition and science surrounding daytime naps, the number of companies endorsing them as a part of company culture, are few and far between. Just 6% of companies say they have a designated nap room. Many of us would worry about taking a power nap, and waking up a few hours later, only to find we’d missed an important meeting or deadline.  But taking just 20 minutes out of your schedule for a nap could ultimately have more benefit than working through the afternoon slump, probably not achieving much.

The infographic below, by hotel chain Swissotel, overviews everything you need to know about the daytime nap, and how to take one successfully. Key points to remember are:

  • The perfect time to nap is between 1pm and 3pm
  • The ideal nap position is slightly upright, to avoid too deep a sleep
  • The optimum length of time for a power nap is around 20 minutes, but listen to your own body’s needs, as everyone will be slightly different. Set an alarm for the time you need to wake
  • On days when you’ll be working late, the NASA nap of 26 minutes, is proven to improve pilot performance and alertness
  • The ultimate lighting for a nap is dim to dark, to stimulate melatonin production
  • Experts recommend having a cup of coffee before you nap, for maximum alertness when you wake (the caffeine won’t kick in until after your 20 minute nap)
Power Nap Benefits - Do Power Naps Work?Produced by Swissotel Hotels & Resorts
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