Napping to optimize health and performance (go ahead, it’s OK!)

There is a shift in corporate culture underway toward supporting naps as a high-performance tool that also has massive health benefits.

I work with a consulting company in Toronto, Canada. They have taken the entire third floor of a building that looks out over Lake Ontario and installed nap pods from one side to the other. Anyone can go down, sit in a pod and take a nap at any point in a day. It’s similar to the approach at companies like Google where there are rooms full of nap pods.

Whether you are napping at work or at home, during the week or on the weekend, the science of sleep provides guidelines to follow.

· A 90-minute nap is ideal, though definitely more practical on a weekend or vacation. This length of time enables your brain to complete a full sleep cycle. This not only improves concentration, focus and alertness, it also releases growth hormone, which heals the body and brain. (That’s why professional athletes take afternoon naps before evening games.)

· A 30–60 minute nap is a worst-case scenario that will leave you feeling horrible for hours. Why? Your brain thinks it is entering deep sleep, so it cues the shrinking of neurons that precedes your brain’s cleaning cycle. Then you rip it out of sleep before the cycle is complete. You literally end up walking around with a shrunken neural net for hours, which you experience as brain fog and headaches.

· A 20-minute power nap is a solid strategy for people with busy lives. It gives you improved concentration, focus, alertness and energy. (I learned a tactic from some military personnel they call a Nap-a-latte. It takes 30 minutes for caffeine to kick in, so they do a shot of espresso and take a 20-minute nap. As they are waking up, the caffeine hits them. They say it’s like rocket fuel.)

· Even three minutes of napping has been shown to be beneficial. You can put your head down on your desk, nap for a few minutes and carry on feeling more focused and clear.

Want to learn more?

Check out my new book Rest Refocus Recharge! In the book I cover simple and innovative ways to fight fatigue, feel stronger and live better.

In a 24/7 world, it can be a real challenge to get proper rest and give your mind and body the opportunity to fully recharge. In my new book, I outline how small changes in the way you rest, refocus and recharge can help you improve your mental health, prevent illness and deliver optimal results. In high-performance athletic circles, “deliberate recovery” practices are the secret weapon of the very best. But you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from these strategies. Rest Refocus Recharge offers simple and practical techniques that you can easily incorporate into your existing routine, including:

Rest and sleep

Relax and create

Reflect and learn

Recharge and focus

Regenerate and perform

Let me know what you think about this article and the new book in the comments section below!

Physiologist, Scientist & Author. Helping people live healthier, high-performance lives via decoding science & sharing actionable tips, strategies and tactics.