The power of a power nap
How an afternoon snooze will boost your work performance
Many companies in Japan encourage employees to take a nap on the job, convinced it leads to better performance. So do an increasing number of companies in China – including the tech giant Huawei whose office workers can be seen rolling out sleeping mats by their desks at lunch time.
Researchers agree that a power nap is good for you. It makes you cleverer and more creative at work. Your decision-making sharpens and it lowers the risk of making clumsy mistakes. You should, however, stay away from long naps – they makes you drowsy.
Asia Times interviewed some of the world’s leading sleep connoisseurs about the power of a power nap.
Dr Han Fang, president of the China Sleep Research Society and director of the Sleep Centre at Peking University People’s Hospital
“It is now demonstrated that a noon nap is good for health and productivity. People should have regular noon naps. For some people with sleep disorders, like narcolepsy, a noon nap is more effective than medications.”
Dr. Samson Fong, Hong Kong Society of Sleep Medicine
“A nap can be useful on some occasions. A short nap of 15-20 minutes could be helpful in making one more refreshed.
“However, a long nap may make one feeling groggy and also may affect the sleep at night. A nap in the evening may interfere with the bedtime. If a patient is suffering from insomnia, a nap is often suggested to be avoided as it would affect the sleep drive at night. On the other hand, scheduled naps are helpful to patients suffering from narcolepsy to prevent them from falling asleep easily in the daytime.“
June Chi-Yan, assistant professor of the neuroscience and behavioural disorders program at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore
“Taking a nap in the afternoon can help improve performance later that day, but one should pay attention to the timing and the duration of the nap. If the nap is taken very late in the afternoon or in the evening, sleep that night may be affected. Also, if the individual takes a long nap, say more than 30 minutes, and happens to wake up from deep sleep, then he or she may be groggy for a while. This is what we call sleep inertia, and it may take about 30 minutes to dissipate.
“The most important thing to note is that when, every weekday, an individual sleeps very little at night and tries to compensate by taking a daily afternoon nap, his or her performance is still less optimal than what would happen if he or she sleeps sufficiently every night.”
Dr Esther Yuet Ying Lau, assistant professor at the department of psychology at University of Hong Kong
“Napping is awesome, for some people, if they nap with a plan. Not everyone enjoys naps, and napping is definitely not for everyone. For example, we normally discourage people with insomnia to take daytime naps as their sleep drive will be further reduced at night if they get sleep during the day. For people who generally sleep well and who like napping, I would recommend taking a short nap (not more than 45 minutes) before 4pm in the afternoon when our body rhythm has a bit of a dip.
“Research from our lab and others have shown that napping boosts attention, verbal recall and visuospatial learning, work memory, planning and problem solving, as well as happier mood. All of these will be helpful in elevating working productivity and our well-being in general. The key is that naps should be planned – so set an alarm.