The Perfect Nap

It’s one thirty in the afternoon.

Maybe you are at work and have been plowing through your to-do list all day. You have a major presentation to give tomorrow and your boss has been asking for “those numbers” for a week now.

Or maybe you are a mom or dad at home with the kids and they are finally down for a nap. All the things you have wanted to get done are staring at you. This is your chance. Time to get some serious work done.

There is only one problem: you are really tired.

How do you restore the energy to have an incredibly productive rest of your day? Easy . . .

You take a nap.

Yes, I’m serious.

If you consider your typical day, you probably have a period of high energy early on and get a good deal of heads-down linear work done. As you continue to crush your to-do list you start to hit a bit of a wall—a trough, actually—where energy starts to diminish and focus vanishes.

The truth is, the work is never done, but if you don’t pay attention to rest, you will be.

If you don’t pay enough attention to the trough, your energy will continue to trend downward so that by the time you make it home you have nothing left but to bleed out on the couch.

That’s why I became so interested in finding my own “trough.” Sure, I wanted to have more energy for my afternoon work, but more importantly, I wanted to have something in the tank when I got home. My work is an important part of my life—but it is only a part. Your work should make you better. If it drains your energy and you become a drained version of yourself, you’re cheating everyone else in your life.

While there are a few options to try to ward off the effects of the trough, one in particular offers the best way to have a strong rebound and to have a truly restorative break during the afternoon: taking a good old-fashioned nap!

So what does a great nap look like? Here are five easy steps to the perfect nap . . .

1. Find your afternoon low point.

The best time for a nap is generally about six hours after waking (hence the term siesta, from the Latin sexta, meaning “sixth hour”). But don’t leave this to chance. You can figure out your precise low point.

First, get yourself a journal. Then, set your phone timer to go off every hour. Take out your journal and quickly note what you are doing and give yourself a one to five rating for your physical and emotional energy. Do this for one week, look at the trends, and you will know when your low point occurs. That’s the ideal time for your nap.

Give yourself permission to take a nap!

Create a peaceful environment.

Turn off your phone notifications. If you’ve got a door, close it. If you’ve got a couch, use it. If your office is not conducive for a nap, find somewhere else—a quiet room, your car, or an empty office. Get creative. If you are at home, find that quiet place where there are no distractions and little light.

3. Down a cup of coffee.

Yes, you read that right. The most efficient nap is the “nappuccino.”

Caffeine takes about twenty-five minutes to engage in your bloodstream, so drink up right before you lie down.

4. Set a timer for eleven to nineteen minutes.

Naps shorter than ten minutes are pretty useless, and naps longer than twenty minutes begin to invite sleep inertia issues in which you spend as much energy waking up as you gained from the nap. Naps between eleven and nineteen minutes measurably boost alertness and mental function without leaving you sleepier than before. And, thanks to your cup of coffee, the caffeine is beginning to kick in right when you wake up.

5. Repeat consistently.

There’s evidence that habitual nappers get more from their naps than infrequent nappers, so if you have the flexibility, make an afternoon nap a regular ritual.

By napping you are saving your company money.

You’ll be tempted to think that the really dedicated employees are the ones who are able to just “suck it up” and “power through it.” If you’re a mom or dad at home, you’ll think that you’re wasting valuable time to “really get things done.” The truth is, the work is never done, but if you don’t pay attention to rest, you will be.

So now you are armed with the data to give yourself permission to take a nap!

(And if it’s your boss you’re worried about, you should know that according to research, tired employees cost companies $2,280 per employee per year, so by napping you are saving your company money.)

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