I’m a big fan of napping. I used to worry about the need to nap, and I would fight off the impulse when I had work to do, but I’ve since learned that people who nap generally enjoy better mental health and mental efficiency than people who don’t nap. They may also sleep better at night. Now, if I feel the need to nap and have the opportunity, I just take one, and usually wake up after 10 or 20 minutes feeling refreshed.
As for napping at work, 34 percent of respondents to a 2008 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) poll said that their workplace permits napping during breaks, and 16 percent reported that their employers provide a place for it. An additional 26 percent said they would nap on a break at work if their employer were to allow it. Famously, Zappos, Google, Nike and the Huffington Post have nap rooms for their employees, but I suspect that elsewhere these facilities are more the exception than the rule, even though there is good scientific support for the notion that napping boosts alertness and productivity.
The NSF reports that a 20 to 30 minute nap can help to improve mood, alertness and performance, and notes that Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued afternoon naps. The National Sleep Foundation reports that dozing off for 20 to 30 minutes is the ideal amount of time if your aim is to improve alertness. Longer naps can leave you feeling groggy and can interfere with your sleep at night, although sleep experts say that an hour-long nap can help you remember facts, places and faces. A 90-minute nap has been found to boost creativity and emotional and procedural memory.
Clearly, most Americans need to nap or spend more time sleeping at night since most report not getting enough sleep – 63 percent of respondents to the NSF’s 2011 poll said that they don’t get enough during the work week. Most said they need about seven and a half hours to feel their best, but average only six hours and 55 minutes on most weeknights. About 15 percent of adults between 19 and 64 and seven percent of 13 to 18 year olds said they sleep less than six hours on weeknights.
In my book Healthy Aging, I recommend making a habit of taking an afternoon nap for 10 to 20 minutes, preferably lying down in a darkened, quiet room. Finding the opportunity to rest is important too. Try to fit some rest into your day – carve out some time to be passive, without stimulation, doing nothing. It will do you good.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Napping, National Sleep Foundation, accessed December 18, 2013, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/napping