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Why You Should Learn to Nap Like a Pro

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One thing I love more than anything else is a good nap. However, I used to feel guilty about it -- until I learned that napping is becoming a more accepted practice in today's workplace.

Companies like Google, Ben & Jerry's and Zappos are unapologetic about their pro-napping stances, but a majority of businesses have yet to jump on the siesta bandwagon.

If naps haven't become a part of your daily routine, you might want to reconsider. Forty-three percent of Americans aged 13 to 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep during the week, according to a 2011 poll by the National Sleep Foundation -- a research group based in Arlington, VA.

Related: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

To boot, many famous people have been known to make napping an essential part of their daily routines. Winston Churchill believed an afternoon nap would double his productivity. As did Thomas Edison and John Rockefeller as well as Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. If it worked for them, it can work for you.

A quick snooze can also prevent burnout. If you work 10 to 12 hour days, five to six days per week, your productivity will decrease and you're bound to burn out. A nap will give you that extra boost of energy you need to work longer hours.

When we sleep, our brains reboot -- sifting through the information that's been acquired throughout the day to decide what to keep and what to discharge. Entrepreneurs who nap will retain more information and increase the ability to memorize complex information.

Related: 'Reboot' Your Brain and Refresh Your Focus in 15 Minutes or Less

A nap may even reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a 2007 study by the Harvard School of Public Health.

How to nap like a pro

My advice is to nap early in the afternoon -- after lunch is ideal. If you nap too late, you'll find it difficult to fall asleep at night.

If napping doesn't come easy to you, simply lie down and close your eyes. Give yourself time to get used to your new habit. Allow your thoughts to come and go, and do your best to concentrate only on your breathing.

Related: Should You Let Your Workers Sleep on the Job?

And get comfortable -- preferably in a dark room. Our brains are wired to become alert when the sun is up. Darkness, on the other hand, signals you to relax. A cool, quiet room with the lights turned off is ideal for a restful and rejuvenating power nap.

Finally, keep naptime relatively short. As a general rule, don't nap for more than 20 minutes at a time. Set an alarm on your phone to avoid oversleeping.

If you're out for more than 90 minutes, you'll most likely enter rapid eye movement -- or REM -- sleep. At this point, we begin to dream, and if you're awoken from deep slumber you'll feel groggy and tired rather than refreshed and alert.

Related: Yes, You Can Sleep In and Still Be Successful

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