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Connections Between Sleep & Work Performance Dec 26, 2017

Workplaces shouldn’t sleep on the importance of shut-eye.


If you often find yourself nodding off during the work day, you might want to bookmark this article for future reference! As science learns more about sleep and how our brains work, it is becoming clear that well-rested people perform better. While this seems like common sense, we often forget that rest is a necessary ingredient for success for tasks from driving to decision-making and communicating to working. A few recent studies have highlighted the effects of sleep on work performance as well as potential benefits of naps, offering interesting considerations for both employees and employers.


How Naps Can Help


Although daytime rests have long been looked down upon in American culture, several others have historically embraced the nap. For example, Spain and several Latin & South American countries traditionally have an afternoon siesta for 1-2 hours, Italy has a similar practice called riposo as do Greece and Malta, Germans traditionally practiced a midday rest which is seeing some resurgence, several Middle Eastern cultures take an afternoon break for rest, schools in China often have naps after lunch and daytime naps for adults aren’t frowned upon, and cat naps and corporate nap rooms are also common in Japan.


Naps offer concrete benefits demonstrated by researchers over the last 20 years, which is why many corporate environments have begun to take notice and why the concept of a siesta has seen a resurgence in popularity in the US, Europe and Eastern cultures as well. Even if your boss isn’t inclined to outfit your office with a nap room, you can always retreat to your car, rest for a few minutes at your desk, or find another suitable place, especially if you aren’t getting at least 7 solid hours at night.


Here are a few good reasons to indulge in a power nap, or to lobby for an office relaxation room:


*Studies show that a nap lasting approximately one hour will increase productivity for up to ten hours afterwards.

*NASA studied pilots and found that a 26 minute nap increased alertness by 54% and performance by 34%. A 40 minute nap improved alertness by 100%.

*Naps have been shown to improve social and personal interactions, so well rested co-workers can make your office more pleasant.

*Naps combined with caffeine were found to be most effective at improving alertness and performance for night shift workers.

*Studies have found a 37% reduced risk of heart disease, heart failure, and death among people who nap.

*Stamina, mental abilities, alertness, and an elevated mood all show improvements from naps of varying lengths.

*The University of Haifa in Israel conducted a study showing the importance of napping to long term memory. A later study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley concurred with these results, showing that naps help the brain retain information.


Though naps can be beneficial, snoozing longer than 20 minutes may cause temporary sleep inertia and grogginess, especially if you are sleep-deprived (as your body slips into deep sleep faster). Naps that are taken too long or too close to bedtime can also affect nightime patterns. Ideally, keep your daytime naps between 10-30 minutes and at least 6 hours before your bedtime to experience the most significant benefits.


Steps for Sleeping Better


Power naps aside, getting enough quality rest at night is one of the most important things you can do for your long-term health and to stay at the top of your game. Here are a few good sleep hygiene practices you can employ to snooze better.


*Begin to prepare to relax your body and mind an hour before bedtime. Lower lights, turn off the computer and television, and enjoy a light snack if you are hungry. A warm bath, yoga, reading, journaling, or meditation are few possible wind-down ideas.

*Remove light sources from the bedroom. This might include using light-blocking window shades, turning off night lights (or using motion-activated ones), covering LEDs, and removing cell phones and other electronics. Many people turn to watching TV or using a laptop to get sleepy, but the light emitted can actually keep you awake and disrupt sleep cycles.

*If a noisy environment keeps you up, a white noise machine or sound conditioner might help. Noise block earphones or earplugs are another solution.

*Pay attention to the thermostat. Based on research, most people sleep best in room temperatures in the mid sixties, though elderly individuals and babies may sleep better in slightly warmer conditions.

*If your nose, throat or skin gets uncomfortably dry at night, consider using a humidifier, especially in winter months. If you have to open your mouth to breath, this can affect sleep quality.

*Do you sneeze, have difficulty breathing or experience other symptoms of allergies in bed? If so, make sure you thoroughly wash bedding every week, consider replacing pillows older than a year, and clean your mattress as thoroughly as possible (surface vacuuming for most types). Dust-mite proof mattress covers can help reduce allergens as well.

*Make sure your bedroom pillows and mattresses are comfortable and in good condition, such as inner pocket spring mattress, bonnell spring mattress, memory foam mattress, latex mattress, airflow mattress, cooling gel mattress, luxury 5-star mattress, rollable compressed foam mattress.Depending on the pillow material, duck feather pillow, polyester fiber pillow, memory foam pillow, gel memory foam pillow, latex pillow, mini pocket spring pillow... they should be replaced every 6 to 18 months, or when they stop comfortably supporting your head and neck. Mattresses should be replaced every 7-10 years, especially when deep sagging or impressions are present or when you notice difficulty getting comfortable or you feel pain upon waking.

*If you have difficulty sleeping in a flat position, consider a bed wedge or adjustable base bed. Bronchial disorders, circulatory problems, acid reflux, and edema are possible conditions that might benefit from sleeping with chest and/or legs elevated.


With so much to do every day, it’s easy to understand how sleep gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Afterall, sleep doesn’t help us  make money, do housework, get fit or improve our lives – or does it? Science is starting to show that the simple act of rest actually may affect your performance at work, your daytime energy levels, your weight and cardiovascular health, your relationships and mood, and so much more. It is hard to think of another single activity you can do that packs as many benefits as quality sleep, and thanks to scientific research, many people and major companies are starting to take notice. Whether you can get sufficient rest at night or feel best when you take a quick afternoon nap, it is clear that sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. Take a close look at your schedule and habits to make sure you are getting the best sleep possible, and next time you find yourself needing a nap after lunch, snooze without guilt knowing you are helping yourself and your work performance.