Midday rolls around and fatigue starts to stalk you. Is grabbing a cup of coffee or soda or candy bar the best way to counter the after-lunch energy drip? How do many athletes, NASA astronauts, commercial airline pilots, and Google employees cure the midday energy low and return to peak performance? By taking a nap!
Impact of Sleep Deprivation
Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep for optimal health and yet many adults report sleeping less than seven hours. The cost of sleep deprivation is high: increased risk of 10 chronic health conditions (such as cancer, stroke, and diabetes), increased accidents and impaired mental acuity. Researchers have found that lack of sleep affects our mitochondria, the cellular source of energy production. In addition to a decreased ability to focus and concentrate, weakened immune system, weight gain, reduced sex drive, and poor balance being linked to insufficient sleep, Fortune magazine reported that lack of sleep costs the United States approximately $411 billion in lost productivity.
Sleep is important to the health of our minds, bodies, and economy!
Circadian Rhythm and The Midday Low
Then is the answer to avoiding the midday energy drop to make sure you sleep at least 7 hours?
Regularly sleeping 7 hours will reduce the impact of the midday energy dip, it won’t eliminate it. Your circadian rhythm also causes a midday dip.
What is a circadian rhythm?
According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm. For most adults, the biggest dip in energy caused by our circadian rhythm happens in the middle of the night (somewhere between 2:00 am and 4:00 am when they’re usually fast asleep) and just after lunchtime (around 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, when they tend to crave a post-lunch nap). Studies have found that naps benefit those who have had a full night sleep and those who are sleep deprived.
Optimal Nap Amount
Blake Stilwell reported that NASA’s research found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes while the co-pilot manned the plane showed cognitive improvements of up to 54% and job-performance improvements by 34%, compared to pilots who didn’t nap.
Does a nap that is short or longer than 26 minutes have any benefits?
Naps of 10 – 20 minutes reduce sleepiness, improve cognitive performance, increase alertness, attention, and energy levels; improves mood; improves motor performance; reduces stress levels.
Naps of 20 – 30 minutes enhance creativity and sharpen memory.
Naps of 30 – 60 minutes sharpen decision-making skills, including memorization and recall, and improve memory preservation.
Naps of 60 – 90 minutes are rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is critical for problem-solving, helps make new connections in the brain, enhances creativity, reduces negative reactivity, and promotes happiness.
Power Nap at Work
No one thinks twice of someone having a power lunch, taking a bathroom break, grabbing a cup of coffee at work. But would a company support the idea of employees taking a power nap at lunch?
The following forward-thinking companies provide EnergyPods so that their employees can take power naps: Google, Huffington Post, NASA, the law firm White & Case, and Mercedes-Benz Financial Service.
Even if your employer does not provide EnergyPods, schedule time in your calendar to recharge your batteries by putting your feet up and closing your eyes or resting in your car (weather permitting). If sleep is elusive during your scheduled power nap, stilling your mind and having a meditative blank mind can give you a mental break.
Creating a napping habit will improve your health in many ways.
To your health.
Dianne Hinton NP, PA, IFM-C