The rat race of increasing productivity was triggered by the rush of the Digital Revolution back in the 80s.
It wasn’t long before the stereotype of a super-worker that can thrive on a few hours of sleep was formed.
Just as the strappy, able-bodied men dominated the docks during the Great Depression, this new landscape will be dominated by whoever can put in most hours.
We began coming up with ways to trick our bodies into doing more and resting less. Things like Margaret Thatcher saying, “Sleep is for wimps,” didn’t help either.
It’s all around us
That kind of culture is all around us. From books on body and life “hacking” to TV shows where you see surgeons saying they’ve been working for 14 hours straight.
Do you ever stop to wonder, “Do I want that surgeon operating on my appendix?”
Today, we get real and look at productivity and sleep from a more grounded perspective.
We’ll take a look at the science behind sleep, power naps to be more precise, and try to separate fact from hype.
The cost of letting the myths thrive
The myth that the less rest we get, the more things we’ll get done lasted so long that it’s now deeply rooted in the mainstream culture.
The good news is that today, we at least have proof that it doesn’t work.
It’s kind of shocking to learn that the first EVER conclusive study about the impact of sleep deprivation on the economy was conducted in 2016 by RAND Europe.
The conclusions were clear—sleep deprivation costs the US economy about $411 billion.
At least somebody is waking up (pun intended)
Do you think that super successful companies have sleep-dedicated areas and hubs because they nurture tender feelings for their employees?
Not likely. It’s because they’re organizing the workplace with a data-driven approach.
The most well-known study about daily naps dated back to 2006 and was done by the School of Psychology of Flinders University in Australia.
It proved beyond doubt that a short refreshing nap during the day improved pretty much every productivity aspect, from cognitive performance to fatigue levels.
Let’s be specific; this is a direct quote from the findings:
“The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.”
What’s especially noteworthy about this study is that it found the sweet spot of how long a power nap should be.
It turns out that a nap of about 10 minutes is optimal.
- A 5-minute nap didn’t show any significant improvements compared to the control group.
- People who napped for 20 minutes did show some improvements, but only after about half an hour, which kinds of defeats the purpose. The improvements also lasted shorter (125 minutes).
- Finally, the 30-minute group saw a period of impaired performance, alertness and decision-making after the nap, which is attributed to sleep inertia.
What does it all mean?
It means that a power nap is a potent tool and should be a part of every plan to increase productivity. It also means that it has to be done right.
That’s all nice and well but how do I do it?
If you’re working in an office and have an open-minded manager, it should be a simple as introducing him to these findings. He might not change the office culture, but he should be okay with you taking a nap especially if you’re taking time from your lunch break to do it.
If you don’t have a space of your own, you probably won’t be comfortable with inflating an air mattress to take a nap in front of your colleagues.
But pretty much every office has that one space that’s almost never used. It can be anything from an old storage to a conference room.
If push comes to shove, you can always doze off for 10 minutes at your desk.
The most practical solution would be getting a nice air mattress.
Fans of the “The Office” will remember that one scene where Andy offers “Big Tuna” to join him on his “comfy twin.”
It sounded lame in the show, but it’s not so lame right now, is it?
Modern airbeds are comfortable and come in all the same sizes as the regulars (Twin, Full, Queen, and King). For an office nap, the best air mattress will probably be a comfortable twin (much like Andy’s).
Choosing a good airbed is pretty simple
If you’re buying online you can always do the research by merely reading the user reviews of the air mattresses and looked at the ones with highest ratings–those are usually the best ones.
Even better, there are websites out there that test and review airbeds. The one source we found especially useful when researching for this post is thesleepstudies.com – you can see their reviews, tests and top-rated air mattresses here.
It’s a well-known fact that we are most productive in the first few hours after getting our morning caffeine boosts, and it’s all downhill from there, even if we don’t feel it.
A power nap allows you to pack two of those super productive periods into a day.
There’s no “hack” that can do that!