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Nap to Be More Productive

Napping has often been hailed as a productivity boost. Aren't you lucky your bed is just a few sleepy steps away?

Once upon a time, Camille Anthony was the finance director with a Boston-based public relations firm. In the early afternoon, when the Sandman would rob Anthony of her concentration, focus and productivity, she would slip into the company president's office and catch a few winks on the sofa. She would awaken 20 minutes later, refreshed and renewed.

"I nap a lot. I've learned it makes me much more productive. Afternoon tasks seem much less daunting [after napping]," admits Anthony, now president of The Napping Company, a Redding, Massachusetts-based firm launched by Anthony and her husband, William, author of The Art of Napping (Larson, $9.95) and The Art of Napping at Work (Larson, $10.95). "The days [my boss] didn't go out to lunch, I knew I was in trouble."

Once frowned upon as a lazy worker's waste of time, Americans--especially homebased entrepreneurs--are waking up to the benefits of napping. The exercise, so to speak, can refresh a tired mind, decrease irritability and boost worker productivity--which can often drop upward of 30 percent for sleepy workers, says Richard Gelula, executive director of the National Sleep Foundation."People aren't always willing to talk about their naps because of the stigma attached to it," Gelula says. "[But] napping is tremendously restorative."

The drowsiness that leads to napping is caused by a number of factors. Untreated sleep disorders, a lack of nighttime sleep, insomnia, use of sedative medications and even stress can cause excessive sleepiness, Gelula says. Few people are getting the eight hours nightly that science shows the average American needs, he adds. It can be worse for homebased entrepreneurs who often work earlier or later hours than their corporate counterparts--and whose offices lack the constant stimulation of the phones, visitors and e-mail found in the corporate tower.

The recurring need to nap even has a name: "excessive daytime sleepiness." To work best, napping has to be timed right, Anthony says. Each person has a natural circadian rhythm--the body's internal clock that determines its peak productivity and performance. For her part, Anthony's dips daily at 1 p.m. So about three times a week, Anthony will slip into bed and saw off 30 minutes--no more. Twenty minutes can restore 100 percent of alertness and function, Gelula says, and those who let a nap go beyond an hour risk awakening sluggish and tired.

"Basically, when you're fatigued, it's a most unproductive scenario," Anthony says. "If you take that nap, you're going to wake up to a whole new day."

And we'll all work happily ever after. The end.


Top Tips For Napping

  • Get a good night's sleep--eight hours, on average.
  • Avoid napping longer than 45 minutes. Use an alarm or have someone call to awaken you. Artist Salvador Dali held a silver spoon in his hand above a silver tray on his lap. When the spoon fell from his hand and clattered atop the tray, that was all the sleep he needed to feel refreshed.
  • Don't just lay your head on your desk. Get comfortable so you can get quality sleep.
  • Keep a diary to record each nap's effects: Track the start time, total time spent napping and total hours slept the night before.
  • Test out the National Sleep Foundation's Epworth Sleepiness Scale on Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (877-BE-AWAKE) to see where you fall on the sleepiness scale.



Journalist and author Jeff Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.

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Forget Time Management. Do This Instead and Be More Productive.

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