When we were babies, we always used to take naps throughout the day. We’d take them whenever we wanted, in fact. Napping was considered a good thing. It helped us replenish our energy after a long day of crawling around and being paraded in front of relatives. But as we grew older, naps took a backseat in our lives while productivity came to the fore.
We started school where we were expected to be attentive practically the entire day. Maths, physical education, art; it didn’t matter what class we were taking as long as we stayed focussed on the tasks at hand. If we napped during class, we’d surely be reprimanded by our teachers.
As we grew even older and started our careers, our days of being productive expanded to the standard 9 to 5 and in many cases, even longer. Many employers would schedule meetings in the afternoon - a time during which it is extremely difficult to concentrate and contribute anything meaningful. All we could think about was what we had just eaten and how great it’d be to take a quick snooze. But obviously that would be “unprofessional” in the workplace.
Napping has since become relegated to festive occasions like Raya, Christmas and Chinese New Year where a day of celebrations and a full stomach commands an afternoon nap.
Napping doesn’t exactly equal laziness
The problem with this mentality is that napping has been mistaken for laziness. If a person is sleeping, it is assumed that they aren’t working nor being productive. Then again, if a person looks like they are working, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are working and being productive either. Napping and productivity can actually coexist and recent research is proving just that.
A study conducted in the UK in 2008 compared different ways of getting over the “afternoon hump” and the humble nap came out on top over “more nighttime sleep” and “using caffeine.” A study at Harvard showed that a 45-minute nap improves learning and memory while another study showed that a nap of just 60 minutes can improve alertness for up to 10 hours.
Aside from being found to reduce stress, lower the risk of heart attack, strokes, diabetes and excessive weight gain, a study at the City University of New York even found that taking a nap aided participants in being more creative and seeing bigger picture ideas.
A change in napping culture
Some companies have taken the lead by integrating napping into their work cultures. The American marketing software company, HubSpot has a room dedicated to napping and many Japanese companies have adopted a “power nap” policy. Imagine how much more effective staff would be right after taking a short nap?
Given this widening body of evidence in favour of the nap, it may be a welcome addition to your routine, especially if you’re a busy and active individual. Rather than forging on continuously throughout your day, give it a go by making some time for a time out. A short 20 to 45-minute nap may be just what you need to replenish your energy reserves!