Yesterday I wrote about naps and some research from Daniel Pink in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Napping has a lot of benefits in terms of mental acuity and health outcomes. Unfortunately, outside of toddlers in the United States, naps have almost completely disappeared.
In my own life, I look almost longingly at nations like Spain, where afternoon siestas are a thing and people get a chance to recharge with a mid-afternoon nap. Generally, I don’t tend to be the most effective or efficient person between about 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and would likely benefit from a short nap rather than dragging through a bunch of email.
As a perfect napping solution, Pink suggests the nappuccino. In his book he writes, “Down a cup of coffee. Seriously. The most efficient nap is the nappuccino. The caffeine won’t fully engage in your bloodstream for about twenty-five minutes, so drink up right before you lie down. If you’re not a coffee drinker, search online for an alternative drink that provides about two hundred milligrams of caffeine. (If you avoid caffeine, skip this step. Also reconsider your life choices.)”
Coffee right before a 20 minute nap is ideal because it takes about the time that you will be napping for the coffee to get to work. You will get the benefit of a short nap to recharge your brain and coming out of the nap you will get the stimulus benefit of the caffeine. Pink presents more research in his book which suggests that we generally have a lag coming out of our naps. We rebound and feel a level of sleep inertia that corresponds with the length of time we slept. At about 20 to 25 minutes, we avoid the sleep inertia, but once we start getting over 30 minutes, the sleep inertia kicks in, and we feel groggy and slow getting up from our nap. 20 minutes plus coffee avoids the sleep inertia and pumps us up with extra caffeine energy.
If you work from home or have a good set-up for a quick office nap, maybe give this strategy a try. If you don’t work from home and don’t have a place to nap in the office, then maybe its time to start lobbying the boss for afternoon siestas for everyone. Maybe one of us should run for president on a 6 hour work-day plus siesta platform.

On Naps

Quoting Nicholas Bakalar from an article in the New York Times, in which Balakar cites research from a 2007 journal article by Androniki Naska et al., Dan Pink writes the following in his book When: “Naps also improve our overall health. A large study in Greece, which followed more than 23,000 people over six years, found that, controlling for other risk factors, people who napped were as much as 37 percent less likely as others to die from heart disease.” Quoting Bakalar directly, “an effect of the same order of magnitude as taking an aspirin or exercising every day.”


In the United States, we are really missing out by not having a siesta culture. Pink was skeptical of naps going into his book, but I’ve listened to him in a couple of podcasts describe how the surprising benefits he uncovered have changed his views toward napping. Relatively short naps, say 20 minutes or so, can provide us with a lot of benefits: reduced blood pressure, better cognitive functioning, and increased vigor to name a few. Naps can have a big impact on overall health and well being, but in the United States they are not appreciated and are in many ways looked down upon.


Pink writes, “In general, concludes one analysis of about twenty years of napping research, health adults should ideally nap for approximately 10 to 20 minutes.”


For some reason, we believe that all one needs to do to be an effective and efficient employee is get a full night of sleep and then have the willpower to work hard and churn out good work throughout the day. Our ability to not be distracted, to think clearly, and to produce innovative insights are all seen as within our control if we simply work hard enough and apply ourselves with dedication.


The research into naps, however, suggests that we are thinking of our personal strength in focusing and producing meaningful work incorrectly. Rather than just focusing on our effort and intention with our work, we should consider our environment and small tools and techniques that can help us perform better. Yes, we should make sure we sleep well at night and find ways to motivate ourselves to do our best deep focus work, but we should recognize that it can’t all be 100% on our conscious brain. Yesterday’s post talked about the restorative power of walks, and today’s post is about the restorative power of naps. Both of these activities can seem like foo-foo time wasters, but they can actually be quite powerful in giving our brain a chance to reset and perform better in the time after we step away from our work. Rather than valuing people as automatons who should be chained to a desk of productivity, we should remember that we are creative, thinking, problem solvers, and need a little TLC to help our brains perform the best on work that matters.