I'm the least likely person to recommend naps. I've never been a napper. I've never understood why someone would want to sleep in the middle of the day. To me, it seems counterproductive, lazy and maybe even a little un-American. "Why sleep when I could be working, reading, writing or exercising?" I would ask myself. It turns out, a power nap, done correctly, can help you become more productive, creative and help you get more done. Now that's nearly as wholesome as baseball, apple pie and the national anthem.
The research clearly shows that power naps can be good for your health and for business. A short power nap can restore wakefulness, help memory, improve cognitive performance, combat fatigue, decrease response times, improve motivation and do wonders if you have a sleep deficit (i.e., you were in Vegas over the weekend). In short, sleep -- even a brief nap as short as five or ten minutes -- can clear your mind and restore your body to allow you to perform better.
Here's how to power nap correctly:
1. Make it dark. It's a bit unnatural to sleep in the middle of the day, so you're going to need all the help you can get. Make your sleep area (office, car, etc.) as dark as you can. That means pulling down the shades, turning off computer monitors, lamps, etc. I also suggest a sleep mask to block out even more light.
2. Make it quiet. Turn off the TV, mute your computer, put your cellphone on vibrate and hit the "do not disturb" button on your office phone. To drown out external noise such as traffic or photocopy machines, play relaxing music or white noise (e.g., ocean waves) through your computer or cellphone. If comfortable, you can wear headphones to block out even more noise. If you have trouble falling asleep to music, wear earplugs.
3. Make it short. A power nap is not a casual siesta in the middle of the day for an hour or two. It's called a "power" nap for a reason (mainly it is to appease the type A folks who wouldn't think of taking an ordinary nap in the middle of the day). It needs to be short. You don't want to start a full cycle of sleep. If you do this, your head will feel groggy and you won't be able to fully wake up for hours. This is counterproductive. The ideal amount of sleep is 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Quiet your mind. In the beginning, your mind will race -- maybe for the entire "nap." You'll be thinking of all the things you should be doing instead of sleeping. Focus on a single word or intently listen to the music. Power naps take practice!
5. Eliminate the guilt. This is much easier said than done for some people. Think of the nap as an investment that will produce a return. It's not wasted time. It will help you do more. Another important step to eliminate guilt is to get approval from your boss/supervisor if necessary. Convince them that an afternoon power nap makes financial and business sense and that, in just 15 to 20 minutes, you will be able to perform at your best while the rest of the office is in a post lunch coma.
6. Use caffeine for an extra boost. Down a cup of coffee right before your nap. As you're waking up from your nap, the caffeine will just be kicking in to give you even more energy and mental focus.
Enjoy your afternoon power nap. Wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and increased productivity. Just be sure to wipe the drool from your mouth.
(Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six Day Financial Makeover." Visit YourOther8Hours.com.)
Sleep your way to the top: 6 steps to power napping
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