“Hey Demir, I get so tired around the same time every day at work–right after lunch.  I feel so sluggish… it’s a struggle to get anything done at all. But then, right as I am wrapping up my work day, I seem to rebound with an ill-timed burst of energy.  What the heck is happening here and how can I fix it?” – Rick S.

You are not alone in this issue, Rick!  Most people have this “siesta slump” during their day at work, too.

We now know what’s happening biologically:  Your body is actually releasing sleep chemicals!  So it’s actually trying to get you to take a rest. In a recent study on sleep cycles, researchers found that when you are about to crawl into bed for the night, your core body temperature dips by a couple degrees. And the same thing briefly happens in the middle of the day–signalling your brain it is time to rest.

But knowing does nothing to help, does it?  When I used to work long hours in finance, I hated these low cycles, because I was basically a zombie for 3 hours!  And I felt helpless to stop it.  But then I discovered napping – and now it’s a cornerstone of my productivity.

Wait a minute!  Did I just saying that NAPPING was a cornerstone of productivity?  

Yes I did, and I’m serious as a heart attack.

Think about this saying:  “An arrow can only be shot forward by first pulling it back”.  So the fastest way forward is to take a step back, gather strength, and spring forward.  That’s what my power naps are to me:  drawing my bow back, so I can spring forward.  

When you think about the ROI on napping, it’s tremendous.  I “invest” 25 min each day to nap to get back 3 hours of peak performance in the afternoon.  My choice is clear:  I can either fight sleep for 3-4 hours, or I can give into it for as little as 20 minutes.  It’s a no-brainer.

In fact, studies show that the perfect length for a nap is very short (10-20 minutes).  But watch out!  If you sleep longer, you’re likely to experience sleep inertia:  feeling groggy for the rest of the day. That’s exact feeling we are trying to avoid in our work day!

According to a study from NASA, napping helps you focus on one task while “holding other tasks in memory”.  Which means that napping actually improves your ability to perform complex tasks.

Lifehack - the “Crack Nap”

Want to take the “perfect nap”? Knock back a caffeinated drink right before you doze for 20 minutes. The caffeine will take about 30 minutes to absorb into your system.  As you wake up, your natural energy reboot will surge together with the caffeine.  The result?  You’ll wake up ready to break bricks with your bare hands!

So, why don’t Americans nap? Because deeply ingrained into American culture is the celebration of hard work and self-denial.  We celebrate “keeping the nose to the grindstone” — often past the point where becomes counter-productive.  You’ve heard it before:  “Sleep is for the weak!” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

Listen — as a performance coach I applaud grit and determination.  But when it crosses over to self-punishment I have to get off the train. Because that hurts performance.

I could list a litany of countries and cultures that take naps, but I often hear the response, “Yeah, but do we want to become like Spain?  Or Italy?”  Fair enough.

But consider this:  the companies most focused on peak performance today encourage some form of napping.  This list includes: all branches of the US military, Google, NASA, Ben & Jerry’s, Microsoft, and many others.

Do you prefer historical inspiration?  Here are some famous people that swore by napping:

  1. Winston Churchill: Such a big fan of napping, he had a bed in the House of Parliament!
  2. Thomas Edison: An extreme napper who used consistent power naps throughout his day to minimize tiredness and maximize productivity. A true “polyphasic sleeper.”
  3. Margaret Thatcher: A firm believer in the midday power nap in between important meetings.
  4. Albert Einstein: Would fall asleep in his favorite armchair with a pencil in his hand–when the pencil dropped, he would wake to prevent entering too deep of a sleep.
  5. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Trained himself to nap on Venice Beach so he could get in a power nap and a tan at the same time–what a champ.

But back when I worked in finance, I had a big problem:  Napping wasn’t allowed!  Yet for some odd reason, we were allowed to go to the gym at lunch.  So I bought a gym membership, and after lunch every day, I’d go straight to the gym and doze in a recliner for 25 minutes. Then after work, I’d come back to exercise. I was really getting the most out of that membership!

So let’s address the barriers that may currently stand between you and a midday nap at work.

  1. Environmental: Lighting and sound are key to getting in a good power nap. Invest in a great eye mask and noise cancelling headphones.  You’ll find these indispensible for traveling as well, so it’s worth the investment.
  2. Schedule: “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life” – Tony Robbins. I’d extend what Tony says by saying:  “If you can’t invest 20 minutes to get back 3 hours, your priorities are out of whack”. I recommend shoving it in your calendar — and let the rest of your day fit itself around this time. It will, I promise you.
  3. Physical: You try to nap, but you CAN’T.  Your brain kicks into overdrive as soon as you lay down for a quick snooze. Don’t fret! This is normal. The good news is: it doesn’t matter.  TRYING to nap give you the same result as actually falling asleep.  You’ll get up just as refreshed as if you fell asleep.

But isn’t this just common sense?

Your body is telling you, in no uncertain terms, that it’s TIRED. Just let go!  I promise you will come out ahead, springing forward like an arrow into the rest of your afternoon.

And c’mon, if it’s good enough for the insanely productive Thomas Edison… it’s good enough for the rest of us.