It’s one of those questions people get fired up about, like whether or not beans belong in chili or if cargo shorts are an acceptable article of clothing for guys over the age of 14 (no and no, but that’s just my humble opinion).
Should adults nap?
When it comes to sleep, I know entrepreneurs of all stripes. Some can power through the day even when they’ve had just a few hours of shut-eye the night before, while others (particularly those with a non-traditional office) swear they can’t perform their best without sneaking in a midday siesta.
Lately I’ve seen more and more companies adopting nap-friendly policies, and it got me wondering: are naps a secret entrepreneurial weapon some of us are missing out on? I decided to dig a little deeper to find out the facts behind midday sleep.
We all know that getting quality sleep and enough of it is a critical piece of the puzzle for running your most profitable business. Sleeping well equates to a more alert mind and a healthier body, as well as a better overall quality of life.
So, it should come as no surprise that naps come with their own set of benefits. The Mayo Clinic lists the upsides of napping:
Improved performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory
Sounds about right.
Napping is also a surefire way to combat that afternoon lethargy that often hits after lunchtime (or, rather than combatting it, I guess it’s more accurate to say you’d be giving in to it). In 2008, British researchers tested three different ways of getting over the afternoon hump: getting more sleep the night before, taking a nap, or using caffeine to fight it.
Guess which one was the most effective among research participants? Yep, the nap.
Last but not least, napping is a great alternative to energy drinks and sugar, both of which are common artificial energy-boosters but horrible for your body.
Napping sounds pretty great, huh? In fact, while reading some of this research, I was ready to make napping an everyday part of my routine!
…But not so fast. There’s always a “but.”
You can’t just lay down and zonk for half the afternoon under the guise of getting your “nap benefits.” Sleep experts say napping for longer than 30 minutes can actually leave you feeling worse than when you shut your eyes.
It has to do with your body’s sleep cycles. Between 30 and 60 minutes after dozing off, you’re usually entering a period of deep sleep. If you wake up during this time, you’re going to feel groggy, disoriented and maybe even a little icky (like a hangover).
Instead of snoozing ad nauseum, shoot for sleeping just 20 minutes. It’s enough to get that mental power-up mentioned above, but not so long that your mind totally checks out.
On the other extreme, you can nap for a full sleep cycle—about 90 minutes—and come out feeling great. I don’t know about you, but no way in heck will I get my to-do list accomplished if I pass out for an hour and a half in the middle of the workday, so 20 minutes it is.
Not a Substitute for Nighttime Sleep
If you’re hustling away at your entrepreneurial venture, work often wins out over zzz’s. Napping, however, is not a substitute for getting a solid night of rest.
If you’re not getting your recommended 7-8 hours per night, napping is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. It’s not going to do anything beneficial, and may screw up your sleep schedule even more.
Instead of relying on an afternoon nap, focus on practicing better sleep habits in general so you can dose through the night. Eddy has some awesome pointers on getting the best sleep of your life while still rigorously pursuing your goals in this post.
Beware of Underlying Issues
In all my research on this topic, the sleep experts seemed to agree that napping should be approached like an added boost to your day—a healthy, jitter-free version of an espresso shot, if you will—rather than something you need to function.
If you find you’re constantly craving a nap or feeling foggy-headed even when you’re sleeping enough at night, there could be a more serious underlying issue at play. A constant feeling of lethargy can be symptomatic of anemia, diabetes and various hormone imbalances, among other health conditions. Rather than soldiering on, exhausted all the time, set a date with your doctor to get to the root of your sleep troubles.
Don’t Force It
Some people simply can’t take naps. I have a friend who swears she hasn’t taken a nap since she was a child; she just can’t fall asleep in the middle of the day.
If you’re one of these non-nappers, there’s no need to fight it. Laying down only to stare at the ceiling might leave you feeling frustrated and anxious. Don’t force it.
Instead, pay attention to your body’s cues. If it feels like a 20-minute snooze session is just what you need to boost your energy and give the remainder of your day your all, have at it. Just don’t get caught sleeping on the job—that’s a whole different problem!
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