Napping… at Work? How a Short Siesta Can Help Productivity

When you have a few free moments during the work day, what do you do? Do you get fresh air? Text a friend? Close your eyes and meditate? Stretch your muscles? Last week’s post about the Pomodoro Technique suggested that after each 25 minute stretch of focused work, you would be well served by a 5-minute break. And after four rounds of this (approximately every two hours), a 15-30 minute break will help you to focus on the next few hours. Given the important benefits of a good night’s sleep, you might wonder if a taking a nap during that longer break is an okay thing to do.

Our bodies’ circadian clock runs on a cycle of 25 hours; if isolated from external stimuli, we would operate on a 25-hour day. So each night our bodies use sleep to reset. But providing another opportunity to reset during the day helps your body adjust on a more regular basis. So you don’t have to be in Spain to take a siesta! Research has shown that catnaps help us maintain – even improve – our cognitive performance, in addition to boosting our ability to remember and recall facts learned throughout the day. Studies also show that a daytime nap can help reduce feelings of frustration, and support decisions that are less reliant on internal bias. Research from the Better Sleep Council suggests that a 15-20 minute power nap around 2pm works best with the body’s circadian rhythms.

With many of us still working from home, the lure of the bed might need some boundaries (see below), but for those of us in offices, finding a suitable arrangement for a daytime nap might be more challenging. You might be able to block time on your calendar for ‘regrouping’ and close your office door, but if these aren’t options for you, look for other ways to find a space where you won’t be disturbed. If anyone has questions about it, show them the research!

What other things would be important to know if instituting a regular daytime nap?

This week’s tip:

Try some daytime naps this week! It may take some trial and error to figure out a routine that works best for you. Some things to bear in mind:

  1. Set yourself up well. Find a relaxing guided meditation or music to help you fall asleep faster, especially if you’re not used to napping during the day.
  2. If you can’t be in darkness, use an eye mask. Darkness helps you fall asleep quicker.
  3. Set an alarm for 20 minutes. 20 minutes will help you reap the benefits of a nap with less grogginess or drowsiness.
  4. Find the time that works best for your body. If you struggle with acid reflux or heartburn, try napping before your lunch instead of after.
  5. If napping doesn’t work for you… Focus on a physical state change – get fresh air, walk outside, stretch your muscles… We’ll talk more about these options in a future article.

If you’re a manager, support your team members if they choose to take productive power naps during the day – and notice if their work becomes more productive as a result!

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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