My husband has been blessed with the gift of napping. He has the ability to nap at almost any time of day with both depth and length, and still get a full night’s sleep. It’s a trait he inherited, and among my favorites of his family stories is the time Justin’s aunt remarked that she didn’t know adults took naps until she married into the family. If you’ve ever felt a little guilty for sneaking an afternoon nap, vindication is yours.
Turns out, the gift of napping has significant benefits for productivity, performance, and overall health. Arianna Huffington extolls the virtues of the nap in this story on the growing presence of nap rooms in corporate America, pointing out that “sleep makes us more productive, creative, less stressed and much healthier and happier.”
Tony Schwartz is a productivity expert leading the charge toward relaxation and renewal as legitimate means to improving performance. In a piece for the New York Times earlier this year, he makes a great case for changing our commitment to exhausting schedules that leave us regularly feeling tired and overworked.
Time is a resource, he notes, but (as we’re all too aware) it’s finite. Since we can’t generate more hours in the day, Schwartz suggests we look instead at the resource of energy, and by using it wisely, accomplish more in less time. This means taking regular breaks: research shows natural energy highs and slumps about every 90 minutes when we’re awake, much like the 90 minute sleep cycles we’re more familiar with. “Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously,” Schwartz says, “Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.” Instead of turning to food, caffeine, or the natural chemicals generated by stress to keep us moving through the day, Schwartz and others suggest a simpler, more natural solution: take a break when you’re tired. Nap, meditate, walk or run at regular intervals. While you might be tempted to think of those precious minutes as time lost, you’re likely to make up for those minutes through energy gained. And who couldn’t use a little more energy?
Are you in a work or family culture that accepts (or possibly celebrates) napping? Do you notice that taking regular breaks from work increases your productivity? What are your favorite ways to step away from busy-ness?