What do all these people have in common: Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Ronald Regan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison.
Yes, they were famous leaders.
They were also famous nappers.
While I have always enjoyed afternoon naps, part of me always felt bad about choosing rest over activity. Growing up, I assumed naps were reserved for "lazy" people who didn't have jobs and watched television on their parents' couch all day.
Therefore, I was happy to learn that many of history's most productive people were regular nappers. And after discovering the many benefits of napping, the afternoon snooze is now a guilt-free aspect of my personal growth routine.
In When, Daniel Pink shares the benefits of napping. Not only do naps improve cognitive performance and mental health, they expand the brain’s capacity to learn; nappers easily outperform non-nappers on their ability to retain information.
In Own the Day, Own Your Life Aubrey Marcus contends “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.”
Naps also refresh scrambled minds. Think of brains like cell phones. Throughout the day, we open several brain "applications" without taking time to properly close them down. At some point, our mind cannot process all the mental chatter and needs a quick reset. A quick nap reboots the brain, allowing for improved functionality.
Pink offers a hockey analogy: "Naps are like Zamobonis for our brains - they smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice."
So what are some napping tips to remember? Consider the following:
Length: Keep naps short - between 10 and 20 minutes of sleep is best. Longer siestas can cause sleep inertia - a period of grogginess and reduced performance caused by waking in the middle of deep sleep.
Alarm: Setting an alarm is helpful as falling asleep is difficult when worried about waking up at the right time. Setting an alarm ensures you don't oversleep or miss a scheduled commitment.
Timing: Aim for early afternoon, as napping after 3pm can interfere with nighttime sleep. Individual factors such as sleep schedule, age, and medications can play a role in determining the best time to nap.
Nappuccino: Since caffeine takes about 20 minutes to enter the bloodstream, drinking a cup of coffee before a short snooze can serve as the ultimate power nap for increasing afternoon performance.
Restcederin: Eighty-one percent of participants with recurring tension headaches and seventy percent of participants with migraines say naps are most effective for getting rid of headaches.
As we have previously discussed, one of the biggest barriers to personal growth is fatigue. Many people would commit time to self improvement but lack the energy at the end of a long day.
I have found naps to be the ultimate hack when it comes to increased afternoon productivity. During the weekends I love getting up early and spending a few hours writing, reading, and working out. But by the afternoon, my brain is fried and I don't feel like doing more work. By taking a short nap after a healthy lunch, I propel myself into "round two" of afternoon work.
While your schedule may not be as flexible, look for opportunities to take quick naps and then launch right into personal growth work. You will notice that your brain is fresh and ready to complete deep work.
Now that you have permission to take naps, look for times when you can get a few minutes of shut eye. Although you may initially feel lazy, understand that many great leaders credit the afternoon power nap as the secret to their incredible creative output.