There's so much talk recently about how hard we all work, and how overwhelmed we all feel. Does that sound like you? You don't get enough sleep each night, but it's unrealistic to think you'll scale back in the near-term. So what do you do? Fortunately, there's an attractive, easy answer.
Just take a nap every afternoon. Even 20 minutes can make a big difference. (Doesn't that sound sublime?)
I've never understood why some people are so boastful about how little sleep they get. Sleep is a biological need, but you don't hear many CEOs bragging about how rarely they exhale or how seldom they go to the bathroom. Still, for some reason the idea of taking naps, even if you call them "power naps," seems relegated to kindergartners and weaklings. It's time to put that image to bed.
Napping is for winners.
As The Art of Manliness (a blog that is pretty much about what you'd think it's about) points out, some incredibly effective leaders worked naps into their daily schedules.
Sir Winston Churchill, for example, insisted on at least 20 minutes each day (although he often napped for as long as two hours each afternoon). President John F. Kennedy napped almost every day for at least one to two hours each day. Thomas Edison boasted that he slept very little (That again!), but he in fact had a "genius for sleep [that] equaled his genius for invention," according to an associate.
Napping in the afternoon allowed them to get by on a bit less sleep at night, and to be much more effective in the day. That was a good thing since they were doing things like leading the UK through World War II and inventing the light bulb.
How your body works.
Most Americans are sleep deprived, and get no more than six hours of shuteye a night. (For what it's worth, poorer people sleep less than those with money.) While that's not ideal, it might be significantly ameliorated if we were to sleep during the afternoon, too.
That's how we believe cavemen slept--on and off throughout the day and evening--and it's how most animals besides humans sleep as well. Moreover, as The Art of Manliness found:
"[W]hen people are put into an environment that lacks any indication of time, they will fall into the long sleep at night/shorter nap during the day pattern. Thus most of us are daily fighting tooth and nail against our body's natural circadian rhythm, and this is wreaking havoc on our well-being..."
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Years ago, when I was practicing law, I had a colleague who was known for keeping a pillow and blanket in his office, and hiding under his desk in the afternoons. He put up with some good-natured ribbing from the rest of us--things like whether he wanted a snack and some finger paints to make his experience complete.
I guess in retrospect he had the right idea. Ideally, you'd sleep six to eight hours at night, and add a 90-minute nap in the afternoon, perhaps between 1 and 3 p.m. That's probably too much to ask for most of us, however, so a 20 minute catnap in the middle of the day is much better than nothing. Doing so can make you more alert and focused, and improve your health and your mood.
Of all the advice you get about how to improve your life, does this sound like the one thing you'd be very happy to add to your daily routine? If so, maybe your body is telling you something. Sleep on it, and let us know what you think in the comments.
Want to read more, make suggestions, or even be featured in a future column? Contact me and sign up for my weekly email. I work for also write about leadership and success at Inc.com, where this column first appeared. (Photo: flickr/gazeronly)
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