How to Nap At Work—and Why You Should

A new study shows not enough people are napping. Follow these tips to get the benefits of a nap whenever or wherever you need one.

May 8, 2017
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Ah, the Monday morning grind. We've all felt it, dragging in after a restful weekend dreaming of the next Saturday morning when we can stay in bed as long as we want. If you rarely feel rested during your work week, you could be sleep-deprived. And a new survey by the Pew Research Center suggests that nearly two-thirds of us aren't taking advantage of ways to rejuvenate ourselves.

Telephone interviewers polled 2,969 American adults about their napping habits, and found that 34 percent of us, on average, take a nap every day, with more men (38 percent) doing so than women (31 percent). By age, those over 80 were the largest percentage of people taking naps (52 percent), but in the under-80 set, people between the ages of 30 and 49 were most likely to nap (35 percent), while those between 50 and 69 years old were the least likely (32 percent). 

More: 11 Ways to Instantly Crush the Afternoon Slump

Napping doesn’t mean you're lazy. In fact, there may be some link between naps and financial success; in the survey, a third of frequent nappers made more than $100,000 per year. Studies have also found that naps improve cognitive function, memory, and alertness, and one study in Greece found that people who took three 30-minute naps a week cut their risk of a fatal heart attack by 37 percent—largely due to the fact that naps cut down on heart-damaging stress.

Researchers have found that prime napping time is between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. But with most of us at work during those hours, sneaking in some shuteye takes a little doing.

Read on for eight ways to boost creativity—and longevity—by harnessing the power of the nap.

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1. Eat popcorn

The carbs in popcorn help your body create serotonin, which helps you sleep. Eat a handful of the stuff 30 minutes before you nap to help you sleep.

More: 4 Carb-Timing Tips for Weight Loss

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2. Nap early

If you nap later than 4:00 in the afternoon, the snooze could interfere with your body’s circadian rhythms, and keep you from getting a good night's sleep.

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3. Avoid the bed

Your office is actually a perfect place to sleep, since napping in bed could trick your mind into thinking you're bedding down for the night, which can lull you into a deeper sleep from which it's harder to wake up. You could pull a George (Costanza) and build a sleeping nook under your desk, but your office chair works just as well, if it's comfortable. Otherwise, find an unused conference room or an empty office.

More: 7 Steps to Restful, Rejuvenating Sleep

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4. Aim for 10 minutes

It doesn't take much time to recharge your batteries, but the recommendations for the ultimate "power nap" seem to range anywhere from 6 minutes to 30 (and can even recharge your recall!). Most studies have concluded that a 10-minute nap is as effective as 20- or 30-minute naps, and it'll be easier to sneak into your day. Turn on an alarm so you don't oversleep; going longer than 30 minutes may make you feel groggy.

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5. Grab your blankie

Your body temperature drops when you sleep, and you sleep best when you're comfortable. Most offices don't allow you to control the temperature individually.

More: 7 Better-Sleep Strategies You Need to Adopt Today

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6. Switch off the distractions

Turn off your phone, any handheld devices, and your computer's email notification noises. You'll nap best when it's quiet, and you'll be able to hear your alarm when it's time to wake up.

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7. Make it dark

Lower the shades or use an eye mask (it's one of the basic forms of sleep hygiene). Just like noise, light can prevent you from sleeping well.

More: 5 Ways Sleep Keeps You Slim

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8. Move to Madison

If all your midday naps fail to prevent sleep deprivation, consider your geographic locale. In a Men's Health ranking of cities with seriously sleep-deprived citizens, cities, suburbs, and rural areas were all equally bad when it came to people getting enough sleep, not needing sleep aids, or coping with insomnia. But the city with the most well-rested residents? Madison, Wisconsin.

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