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The power of napping

Quality of Life Observer

- Apr 7 2014

As hard working adults, we’ve been trained to equate napping with laziness – especially in the workplace or at school. But an increasing number of companies and universities are realizing that a little bit of shuteye is just the boost we need to finish out the day.

When Arianna Huffington spoke at the TEDWomen conference, she encouraged women to “literally sleep our way to the top”. The media mogul urged the audience to stop participating in the sleep deprivation competition, common in the competitive world we live in, and instead, discover the value of sleep.

The benefits of napping

Huffington isn’t the only champion of the benefits of sleep; countless studies have proven the physical and psychological benefits of napping. The body experiences improved heart function, hormonal maintenance and cell repair as a result of regular napping. Brief sleeps through out the day also recharge the brain causing greater alertness and creative insight. These short breaks, also known as “power naps” increase memory by almost 20% and significantly improve performance on repetitive perceptual and cognitive tasks. Studies by NASA and Harvard indicate that napping can also increase productivity by up to 34%.

These types of benefits can greatly aid the round-the-clock life of a college student, according to University of California San Diego sleep scientist Sara Mednick. After several years of documenting the benefits of napping among college students, Mednick found that a nap, when taken at the proper time and lasting the proper time, can be even more beneficial to energy levels than a cup of coffee.

The right way to nap

Researchers have set out to find the most advantageous parameters of napping. As energy levels tend to dip naturally in the early afternoon, naps should be taken between 1 to 4 p.m. and last anywhere between five to 30 minutes. According to an Australian study, brief naps between five to 15 minutes have almost immediate benefits that last roughly one to three hours, while a longer nap of 30 minutes or more can have benefits that last more than several hours. The data also shows that individuals who regularly nap experience greater benefits than those who rarely nap.

Sleeping on the job

Businesses around the world are warming up to the idea of granting employees time for a little shuteye. Google famously installed EnergyPods in its Mountain View office in California for employee naps. The device, designed by MetroNaps creates a capsule-like space that isolates users from their surrounding environment, angles the body to take pressure off the heart and soothes and awakens the napper with light, music and vibration. The pods have been installed in companies such as the Australia Institute of Sport and Price Waterhouse Cooper in Australia as well as the US offices of Pfizer, Proctor & Gambel and Saatchi & Saatchi.

While the EnergyPods have made headlines as an outrageous workplace luxury, other companies are creating equally nap-friendly options for employees, such as Nike’s “quiet rooms”.

1 http://www.examiner.com/article/cu-boulder-naps-to-success

2 http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/pulse/on-campus-nap-room-proposed-at-harvard

3 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/uc-davis-nap-map_n_2582815.html

4 http://healthyhorns.utexas.edu/HT/HT_napping.html

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