Do you feel extremely sleepy post-lunch? Are you often embarrassed about dozing away during meetings or presentations? Well, you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with needing a small nap once a day . In fact, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can improve alertness and enhance performance at work and home. But, one has to be careful about not overdoing sleep as that can be totally counterproductive.
Unfortunately humans are the only species that are expected to be monophasic sleepers; with day divided into 2 parts- one for sleep and one for wakefulness while other species are polyphasic sleepers. However, more recently the importance of nap is being recognized. Big multinationals like Google, Zappos, PwC , Ben & Jerry’s, Uber, etc have embraced the idea of napping at work. This is very much in the company’s interest as the practice can dramatically increase productivity since apart from providing relaxation and rest to an over-worked mind, naps allow one to rejuvenate and bounce back with a better mood and memory.
How to get the best out of your nap?
Keep it short – Experts suggest that we need no more than 20-30 minutes nap during the day no matter how much sleep you got through the night. Sleeping for longer period of time makes you feel groggy and disoriented upon waking up.
Time it right– As per body’s natural hormonal rhythm, one may feel sleepy around 1 to 3pm and this is the ideal time. However, there are many individual differences as someone may wake up too early or too late to be able to get sleep between this time. However, it has been observed that sleeping around this time makes it less likely to interfere with nighttime sleep.
Environment– Napping can be quicker and easier if the right environment is created. One may want to find a quiet, less bright, and distraction free space for the nap
Downsides of Napping:
Sleep inertia: This occur when naps last longer than 30 minutes and is a feeling of grogginess and disorientation. This defeats the purpose of the nap as it reduces the individual’s efficiency for upto half hour post the nap.
Negative effect on night-time sleep – Individuals already suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders may not benefit from afternoon nap. It may make it more difficult to fall asleep at night
For all those who are already contemplating the idea of scheduling a nap time, you are in good company. Bigwigs like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap. If you remember Professor Viru Sahastrabuddhe from 3 idiots he used to take a 7 minute nap during the day despite his extremely busy schedule! So at least this should convince you regarding its physical and mental benefits.
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.