Power naps: our performance booster

Sleeping at work - power nap

Taking care of yourself is a hard piece of work. Not so hard as programming but still. Just think how much effort it takes to exercise, be on a diet, and even how much attention is drawn to drinking more than two liters of water every day! Everyone knows how to look after themselves but who has time for it after a hard day’s work? There is, however, a way to take care of yourself effortlessly. It will not replace drinking water or exercise, but it will definitely have a positive effect on your mood, general well-being and also on your cardiogram in the future – taking naps.

In the modern world, we usually don’t pay attention to our sleep. We have to wake up very quickly because there are so many things to do in the morning and suddenly we realize that it is evening and finally we are exhausted.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are part of the minority of monophasic sleepers, meaning that our days are divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness, but modern researches are not clear that this is the natural sleep pattern of humans. Indeed, e.g. a study at the University of Pennsylvania suggests the positive effect of naps on students’ cognitive abilities. It turned out that those who napped 5-7 times a week showed better concentration of attention, coped better with nonverbal thinking and spatial memory. International Journal Sports Performance and Physiology quoted results of many researches O’Donnell S., Beaven CM., Driller M. whose findings from the study would suggest that a short nap – less than 20 min, on the day of competition can enhance jump velocity and improve subjective performance in elite netball players, as assessed by coaching staff.

Power nap

The National Sleep Foundation describes short sleep during the day as a “power nap” pointing out that it can boost on-the-job performance by as much as 34%. Many employees take that path. Google situated in Mountain View in Canada, decided to invest into nap policy, and so they provide Energy Pods – what is a comfortable high-tech armchair dedicated to sleep, rest, relax. As Vice President David Radcliffe said: “No workplace is complete without a nap pod.”

Sleeping on the job: the nap pod at Google headquarters. Photograph: Alamy

On the same path, Mercedes-Bens went, offering Energy Pods to more than 600 employees in the Texas offices. NASA from Pandle in California is the next example where power nap policy is using to influence for increasing creative problem-solving.

So the biggest already knows and applies, but it is not the newest idea, China’s firms knew about it much earlier. They might not invest as much in nap solutions but in their work culture, day work is always planning, including nap time after lunch. That culture crash describes team from Berkeley Haas MBA students, staff, clients and faculty in the International Business Development (IBD) program who was working during spring 2014 with Chinese social media company YY in Guangzhou, China. They were telling their experience: One particular business practice we thought everyone should immediately adopt is quite simple though: after lunch, employees are permitted to take a nap until 2 pm! Some of them have serious gear with them: foldable beds, eye covers, noise-canceling headphones help turn the otherwise buzzing office into a silent snooze fest in the early afternoons.”

Photo from https://haasintheworld.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/updates-from-ibd-china-team-yy

The best time for a short sleep

There are a few items in which you should pay attention to have a power nap. According to many researches as doctor Damien Léger from Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris – the best time for a short sleep is between 13 and 15 in the afternoon. It can’t be too late not to impact your daily sleeping pattern.

The length of a nap causes various effects, e.g. a short nap lasting up to 6 minutes – you don’t have to get up from the desk – it supports memory processes. If you cut a 20-30 minute nap in the car in the parking lot under the office, it improves reaction time and helps you lose weight. If you find more time during the day, e.g. up to 60 minutes, sleep will improve the orientation in the field, facilitate decision making and significantly strengthen your long-term memory.

How about a coffee?

Do you think that coffee is easier to do and the result will be the same? Not really – after a 20-minute nap, the body and brain will be relaxed and ready for mental effort, while after coffee you will feel energized but you can make more mistakes. So let’s try to look over your day plan, when could you try? Not to be a better worker but to be better for yourself now and in the future because 30-minute short nap 3 times a week reduces the risk of death from heart problems by 37%.

So it is worth a try!


If you want to read more there our sources and recommendations to read:

  1. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/search/node?keys=nap
  2. The Effect of Prior Endurance Training on Nap Sleep Patterns

Article in International journal of sports physiology and performance 5(1):87-97 · March 2010 with 97 Reads by Daniel J Davies; Kenneth S Graham; Chin-Moi Chow

  1. https://www.sleep.org/articles/napping-at-work/
  2. https://haasintheworld.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/updates-from-ibd-china-team-yy/


*Article by Magdalena Tchórzewska –  a psychologist and certified psychotherapist for years associated with the Institute of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. She gained over 20 years of experience working with adults and their families supporting their development both in the professional field and in private life. He develops his professional experience and interests intensively by working with specialists from Europe, especially intensively working with psychotherapists from France and England. Recently, he explores his interest in the possibilities of using social media to support and treat psychotherapy.