The Case for Napping on the Job

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Cats have known it all along. Naps are good. They’re good for cats and, it turns out, they’re good for people. Napping is unlikely to enable us to leap into the air like cats do and land gracefully on a cluttered mantelpiece without disturbing a single item. But, there’s growing evidence that napping during work hours will boost your energy level, or at least prevent its decline. In fact, napping has become the subject of considerable scientific research.

In particular, research studies suggest that napping is a preprogrammed part of our circadian rhythms. These are built-in rhythms that have high and low points. Would you be surprised to learn that one of the low points occurs in the afternoon, not long after lunch? And twenty to thirty minutes is all you need to benefit from a midday snooze, especially if you can do it in the early afternoon when your body is tired.

Now, you could deal with this energy plunge simply by doing no serious work in the afternoon. Some people have already adopted this strategy. However, taking afternoons “off” might not serve you well over the long term. In any case, napping not only can refresh you, but it also can improve cognitive functioning by speeding up and improving memory consolidation.

Conversely, the more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish our minds become. Oh, and by the way, computer programmers are listed among the top ten sleep-deprived jobs.

While managers and business owners have argued that napping during the workday is a productivity buster and a sign of laziness, they are gradually accepting that napping can help recharge a tired mind, boost energy, and increase overall productivity. In fact, an increasing number of companies have actually allocated space for private napping.

Of course, napping isn’t the only way to regain an optimal level of functioning. Periodic stretching or a mid-day walk can help. So can brief timeouts in which you do something else, such as working on a crossword puzzle, reading a magazine, or (dare I say it?) playing a computer game.

But, clearly, there’s a case to be made that closing your door (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and spending fifteen to twenty minutes in dreamland will enable you to do more—and do it better, faster, more accurately, and more safely—than if you force yourself to just keep plodding along.

Sure has me convinced. Zzzzzzzz.

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Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a writer and speaker who draws from her background in both psychology and IT. Naomi's recent books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions and Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. Naomi is a regular columnist for