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The Science of Naps

Feeling drowsy during work? You could get yourself a cup of coffee, take a walk, or do a few jumping jacks. However, there’s a more exciting alternative; the nap. Daytime napping is now a workplace trend, with many large companies like Amazon, Google, Uber, Zappos, and Ben & Jerry’s installing dedicated napping spaces in their offices.  These companies hope to increase the productivity and creativity of their employees by doing so. While nap rooms are more of a perk than a necessity, most people still find a way to sneak some shuteye at work. And now, there’s evidence that supports that this may be a wise decision.

For people who don’t get enough sleep, to begin with, short midday naps can improve alertness and motor performance. But for those of us who do get enough sleep at night, are there any benefits to midday napping? Yes, as most research suggests. 

The effect of naps on mental performance

Even in well-rested people, naps have been found to improve performance in areas such as reaction time, logical reasoning and symbol recognition, as mentioned in the Journal of Sleep Research in 2009. Also, and this may not come as a surprise, they’re good for your mood. 

A study by the University of Michigan doctoral student Jennifer Goldschmied found that after waking from a 60-minute midday nap, people were less impulsive and had greater tolerance for frustration than people who watched an hour-long nature documentary instead of sleeping (Personality and Individual Differences, 2015).

Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, says that for many types of memory, the benefits of a nap are substantial. Previous research has shown that subjects perform better on a visual task after a night of sleep than they do immediately after learning it. Subsequent stages of the research test have suggested that subjects performed better in these same tasks after a 60-90 minute nap, as opposed to a full night of sleep. These findings were documented by Dr. Sara Mednick and her colleagues in the paper Nature Neuroscience, published in 2003.

Dr. Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology conducted a similar experiment. Volunteers were made to learn a long list of name-face pairings. Half of these participants then took 90-minute midday naps. When the test was conducted later on, it was found that participants who had napped performed better than those who hadn’t, suggesting that naps had improved their learning capacity. This experiment was documented in Current Biology, 2011.

Conclusion

While naps are not a substitute for the recommended 8 hours of sleep, they definitely help improve concentration, memory, and alertness. Sleepkraft makes ultra-light, portable slim mattresses, and these can be an excellent option if you prefer to take a nap at work. All companies are not Google or Uber though, so you might want to discuss it with your bosses first. If they don’t believe you, show them this blog post.

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