Increase Productivity with a power nap


At a European MBA school I once worked in, we once received a complaint from an employer because his Asian intern was caught sleeping at her desk. Clarification from a French colleague who had worked in Vietnam revealed that this student was indeed napping during a lunch break, a common practice in Taiwan, Vietnam and China.

What used to raise eyebrows in AngloSaxon countries where working all night = high productivity is now gaining popularity amongst the coolest of firms such as Zappos, Facebook, Google and PWC.

The latest in HR practice is to provide power nap cells or rooms for employees to catch forty winks.

In “How to have a good day”, former McKinsey consultant Caroline Webb starts her book with a chapter on the Science Essentials. She quotes Havard professor of sleep medicine Charles Czeisler that skimping on sleep – sleeping only four hours a night a week induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol of 0.1 percent. We would never say “This person is a great worker. He’s drunk all the time!” Yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep.

Czeisler counts CEOs, star athletes and rock stars such as Mick Jagger among his sleep clients especially when they are criss-crossing across time zones during their tours. Now it makes perfect sense why Madonna in her recent Asian tour started her concert at 1030pm while her show in Singapore on the last leg was at a more sane 830pm. (Of course fans were not informed in advance and had to wait for her. This was not prima donna behavior but a realistic human reaction to perform at her peak.)

Webb quotes upsetting research by neuroscientists of brain scan of volunteers who hadn’t slept. They showed much activation in their amygdala -60 percent more than people who were well rested. The tired brain survival circuitry was more jittery and likely to launch into a fight or flight/ freeze defence in the face of challenge or uncertainty.

Another research, cited by Webb points to the positive side of sleeping. Stanford researcher found that when she got male basketball platers to sleep ten hours a night – both their mood and daytime energy improved as well as their hoop shooting performance by an average of 9 percent.

What should we do?
1. Does alcohol help me sleep?
Contrary to popular belief, while alcohol makes you drowsy, it leads to poor quality sleep. Previously known as taking a nightcap, alcohol is known to interfere with breathing and you end up more tired than before you fell asleep. (Todd Arnedt, PhD, clinical assistant professor at the Sleep and Chronophysiology Laboratory at the University of Michigan.)
This is due to the biphasic effects of alcohol which makes you drowsy but stimulates the blood stream and interferes with REM sleep.

2. Does watching television and surfing the net help calm me down before sleep?
While research suggests that helping the body calm down before sleep is critical. Reading a book, engaging in crossword puzzles helps prepare the mind to slow down. On the other hand, bright lights from television and Internet do not, leading to a shallow sleep as the brain is confused thinking that it has to get up.

3. What else can I do?
a. Set a sleep routine so that the body’s circadian rythumn can get into the habit.
b. Avoid bright lights
c. Practice deep breathing.
Forget counting sheep but instead count your breath. Close your eyes and breathe in counts of 4 and breathe out counts of 7. Notice your breath flow from your stomach to your nose for 10 sets.
d. Engage in moderate exercise which helps reduce cortisol produced by the body during a stressful work day. At the same time the body produces endorphins or happy hormones which relaxes the body.
e. Do not engage in any stimulating activity just before bedtime. Jot down some points but leave the heavy weight thinking for the morning.

4. What if I can’t sleep?
Webb suggests taking power naps of 20-30 mins during the day.

Do you think introverts need more sleep than extroverts?

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