Take a Power Nap

Post by  Eric, Third Degree Enigma


You get a little drowsy in the afternoon and have a hard time being productive.  Your mind gets fuzzy.


Research has shown that taking a 20 minute nap in the middle of the day resets the learning centers of the brain and significantly improves learning during afternoon activities.   As a developer, it is not uncommon for me to get very drowsy around 1pm-2pm and be unable to write any decent code for several hours afterward.  Unless, of course, I can get a power nap. 

Napping at work has been problematic for eons.  Your body is screaming at you for a few minutes of brain reorganization and everyone else at work is prone to take a narrow view of your somnolence.   Besides the career-limiting potential that an open nap can have, it is also naturally difficult to get a good nap if you know other people are aware of it.   This is your caveman instinct protecting you from hostile males and predators taking advantage of your lack of consciousness.

Well, I’ve been powernapping successfully as part of my work for many years now.  I find short naps to be an indispensible part of having work-life balance and I’ve figured out a few things to make naps easier and more effective.  Here are some things I have learned: 

  • Take a nap when you are sleepy.  Once your body tells you to nap,  you have 20 minute window to get it.
  • It is critical that you actually go unconscious.  If you stay awake and just rest for a few minutes, you won’t get the benefit. 
  • 20 minutes is plenty.  I set a timer for the 20 minutes, but I almost always wake up before it goes off.  I often find that I have had a little dream, which is my signal that I had a good nap.
  • If you can nap in a semi-private location (such as a closed office), most people, even bosses, don’t particularly care.  They will even be apologetic about  disturbing you.   Napping in the open, however, makes people feel uncomfortable.
  • An office with a door that closes is great, but it is still important to put out a sign to keep people from barging in.   My favorite sign is “email only, please”.
  • If you don’t have a private office for sacking out, try any of the following:  Your car, a nearby park, a forgotten corner of the building, underneath the stairs at the bottom of a deep stairwell, or an unassigned office or cubicle.
  • Put your sleeping supplies (blanket, small pillow, earplugs) in a sports bag so that people don’t question why you are headed out of your office with a blanket and a pillow.   

Sweet dreams!

Eric, Third Degree Enigma

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