I have written about naps in the past, checkout Napping at Work: Why You Should Finally Implement AND Regulate it and Yawn: Lack of Sleep and the Benefit of a Power Nap. I am a fan of naps and have been for a long time. However, Dan Pink is not, or at least was not until he researched the subject. In his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, he presents evidence that changed his mind and should change yours as well.
Beyond the trough
I have already introduced Pink’s concept that in the afternoon most humans slide into a trough of reduced vigilance and productivity, here and here. Study after study has shown that short naps can overcome that afternoon downturn. Napping improves driver alertness and that of police officers as well. However, as Pink says, napping is more than just an issue of alertness. A UC Berkeley has shown that people who took naps outperformed non-nappers, by twice, in their ability to solve problems and retain information. It boosts short-term memory and associative memory, that ability to match names with faces, a critical skill for anyone in HR. One overview study said:
Even for individuals who generally get the sleep they need on a nightly basis, napping may lead to a considerable benefit in terms of mood, alertness, and cognitive performance… [It] is particularly beneficial to performance on tasks, such as addition, logical reasoning, reaction time, and symbol recognition.”
Naps even produce better health.
Has to be the right length of time
Many years ago when I traveled a lot for business, I discovered that the time from taxing for take-off to the time the flight attendants brought the drinks down the aisle was a perfect amount of time for a nap. I would wake up refreshed and ready to go for the workday. Pink says that research provides evidence that what I discovered works. Research shows that naps of 10 to 20 minutes in length are very restorative without having the detrimental effects of longer naps, such as grogginess.
A little stimulation goes a long way
As a graduate student, who also worked, I spent many a late night, and often sleepless nights, sitting up studying and writing papers. I discovered that making a pot of coffee, or taking a caffeine pill, and then taking a 20-minute nap would sustain through the night. I am sure many of you discovered that as well. A study proved this effect by studying groups who had no stimulant, caffeine, or caffeine and a nap. The found the latter group was far more productive and they had greater performance. As a result of reading this and experimenting on himself, Pink converted.
In the workplace
The idea of napping, long the death of a career (I have had to discipline employees caught sleeping on the job), has started to make some headway in the American business scene. Companies, such as Zappos, Uber, Nike, Ben & Jerry’s all have created napping places in their workplace. A number of Japanese companies manufacture napping cubicles and have them installed in their workplaces as well.
If you have flagging performance in the afternoon, a large number of mistakes, a diminution in attitude perhaps instituting a nap policy might solve your problems. It worked when we were in kindergarten, and you know what kind of boundless energy kids have.