What do all of these people have in common: Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Ronald Regan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison.
Yes, they were all famous leaders.
They were also notable nappers.
While I have always enjoyed naps, I have always felt a bit guilty about taking an afternoon snooze. I believed naps were for lazy people, and that I should be doing something more productive with my time.
Therefore, I have been happy to discover that napping appears to be on the upward swing in terms of public opinion.
In his book When, Daniel Pink contends that naps are proven to improve cognitive performance and mental health. Pink uses a hockey analogy, suggesting “Naps are like Zambonis for our brains - they smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice."
Hockey not your thing? Try this one.
I think of naps like hitting the restart button on your cell phone. Throughout the course of the day we open up several different brain applications without taking time to effectively close them down. At some point, our mind cannot process all of the mental chatter and needs to be turned off. Naps allow the brain to formally restart so we can be fresh for the rest of the day.
When you feel yourself slowing down in the afternoon, your body is sending you a signal loud and clear that it needs rest. There is no shame in going with the flow and taking a nap. In his book Own the Day, Own Your Life Aubrey Marcus contends that, “Naps have been shown to consistently outperform high doses of caffeine for cognitive tasks and motor performance. They've been shown to improve logical reasoning, reaction time, and immune function.”
So what is the perfect length for a nap? Pink maintains the most ideal naps last no longer than twenty minutes, while Aubrey suggests the optimal time is closer to thirty minutes.
Regardless of how much time you can carve out, a little shut-eye is better than nothing at all. Astute individuals realize they only have so much energy for their work so they guard their reserves carefully. When they sense their reservoir is running dry, they look for opportunities to replenish their supply.
Now that I have been given permission to take naps, I always try to look for times when I can shut my eyes for a few minutes. It seems that there is no conundrum a quick catnap can’t help me unpack.
Looking for a great book discussing napping? Consider reading Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holliday.