Sleeping at Work

Sleep, work and succeed with on-the-job nap tips from James Maas, Ph.D., the psychology professor at Cornell University who coined the term “power nap.” Excerpted from his book, “Power Sleep."

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Taking Naps

Napping at the Office
If you’ve convinced the boss, or if you are the boss, take a nap on your work break. Here’s how to make naps work:

  • Get rid of all the distractions! Turn off the ringer on the phone, close the door and turn of the lights. Put a sign on the doorknob: “I’m recharging my batteries,” or, “I’m power-napping.”
  • Avoid caffeine after that first morning cup of coffee. Otherwise you may feel jittery and unable to fully relax.
  • Consider your environment. Furniture has recently been designed to aptly suit office naps, including power-nap executive chairs that recline, massage your head and envelop it in darkness. There are desks that transform into cots, and chairs and couches that have built-in audio decks for playing relaxing music and alarm clocks to wake you up. 
    • You don’t have to go to extremes. If you’ve got a couch, use it! Lying down is the optimal position. If not, lying back in a chair with your feet up is the next best way. Have a pillow handy so you’ll have a comfortable headrest. Or you can just sit at your desk and put your head down for a few minutes’ rest.
  • Schedule regular rest periods. Just as with nocturnal sleep, it is important to get your body used to napping at about the same time every day, for about the same length of time. Most people tend to feel sleepy about eight hours after awakening.
  • Even on days when you don’t feel particularly sleepy, try to take a rest around nap time instead of taking a coffee break.
  • Limit your nap time. A 15- to 30-minute nap is ideal. Many tired executives worry that if they put their heads down they will fall asleep and not worry for hours. Not to worry. “Power-nap” alarm clocks are available with a one-button preset for naps of specific duration.
  • If your work includes air travel, which can easily contribute to sleep and exhaustion, particularly if you cross time zones, consider napping during your flight. The 20-minute periods you spend not working will pay off in hours of more efficient and productive thinking. A short nap before arrival at your destination is also good, especially if you’re planning to drive a rental car.

Forty million Americans are now working full or part time in the home and a good portion are probably taking naps. The emphasis is going to be on what is produced, not on where you work at what time of the day or how long you work. Napping should not be frowned upon at the office or make you feel guilty at home. It should have the status of daily exercise.

Proactive Education
Showing how naps and good sleep strategies can quickly restore alertness, enhance performance, reduce mistakes and accidents, and affect profits is a quick way to grab any CEO’s attention. Talk to your boss, give him or her some literature or tapes on sleep deprivation and performance, or invite a sleep expert to give a seminar at your company.

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