SLEEP ∙ 3 minute read

The power of napping: harnessing midday rest for enhanced productivity

By Joe Young | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides

Napping is often viewed as a lazy indulgence. Even the Spanish have abandoned their famous siestas. But what does the science say? Could napping actually enhance your productivity?

Let’s have a look.  

What’s the science behind napping?

Contrary to popular belief, napping is not a waste of time. Quite the opposite. 

Our natural sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, influences our energy levels and alertness throughout the day. Around midday, most people experience a natural dip in alertness, often referred to as the post-lunch slump. This decrease in energy can negatively impact focus, memory, and decision-making skills.

Napping during lunchtime (around 12:30 - 2 pm) can stop these productivity killers in their tracks. And don’t just take our word for it. There’s plenty of science behind it. 

Adapted from the original source 

What are the benefits of napping?

  • Improved physical performance, cognitive function, and fatigue: Research shows that after a night of normal sleep or partial sleep deprivation, a daytime nap has a moderate to high effect on cognitive performance, physical performance, and fatigue. 
  • Enhanced creativity: A short nap resets your brain by putting it through a brief period of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). A recent study showed that even 15 seconds of this type of sleep was enough to help participants solve mathematical problems. 
  • Improved memory: A short nap may improve memory and recall. A study found that napping for 1 hour after learning factual knowledge led to better long-term memory than taking a break or cramming. 
  • Reduced stress: Napping could help to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Research shows that taking a nap after a stressful event can reduce negative emotions more than taking a break. 

Going to sleep might seem like running away from your problems, but in reality, you’re just giving yourself time to breathe and refocus, so you can power through your day with renewed strength.  

How do I make the most out of a nap?

Your sleep environment is important to get the most out of your nap. 

First of all, don’t cut corners. We know it’s tempting to grab a nap on the sofa with the T.V. on but this isn’t optimal rest. You want your nap environment to be set up to make the best use of your time. Do it right, or don't do it at all.

Here are some pointers:

  • Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed
  • Set a timer for 10-30 minutes
  • Lie down in a comfortable position
  • Close your eyes and relax
  • Focus on your breathing
  • When the timer goes off, get up and move around to avoid feeling groggy

Can you nap too much?

Napping longer than 20-30 minutes can be counterproductive. That groggy post-nap feeling can render it worthless. Like anything, you can have too much of a good thing. Moderation is key. 

Sometimes the constant urge to nap could be a sign you’re not getting enough sleep in general. Sleep is integral to your health, so it’s important to do something about it if it’s an issue. Excessive napping can also be a symptom of mental health problems like anxiety or depression. If you’re worried about it, it’s worth talking to your GP.

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The numan take

Sometimes it’s good to take shortcuts. And napping is the ultimate shortcut to enhance productivity. Beat mid-afternoon fatigue and get back on track with a well-timed nap.