In Defense of the Nap

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This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

As a university for creatives, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) aims to provide access to resources that help promote “the unhindered flow of creative juices.” To that end, the university started offering EnergyPods—aka zero-gravity “nap pods”—on campus about 15 years back, and add to the fleet every year. “Research has shown that a 15-to-20-minute nap has amazing benefits and can positively impact areas like mood, alertness and creativity to name a few,” says Dr. Latoya Moss, Director of Counseling and Student Support Services.

The university even goes so far to refer to the pods as “symbolic reminders of the need to recharge,” and Moss says she has seen the benefits firsthand—in not only the form of increased creativity in work products, but also in increased creativity around ways to socialize and collaborate during the age of COVID. “So many of our physical systems and symptoms are able to be regulated through sleep.”

On a typical day, a third of the adults in the United States take a nap.

Pew Research

The benefits are not lost on pediatric and adult sleep coach Kelly Murray. “Naps have been shown to improve mood, alertness, productivity, relaxation and learning,” she says, adding that companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Google, Cisco, Huffington Post, and Facebook have also adopted nap rooms. “In fact, a study out of the University of California Riverside showed that individuals were able to recall new information just as well after taking a nap for 60 to 90 minutes as they did after a full night of sleep.”

However, for those who have sleep issues to begin with, Murray does recommend some specifics: “Keep your nap to around 20 minutes and take it early in the afternoon, so that it doesn’t adversely impact your night sleep. A long nap can also make you feel even groggier due to sleep inertia.”

But, overall, Murray considers any company that promotes napping during the day as making a smart move. “They not only boost morale, but studies have indicated that they also boost the bottom line: Researchers at MIT found that after three weeks of daily 30-minute naps, productivity of data entry workers increased by 2.3 percent.”

Dr. Anna Persaud, biochemist and CEO of This Works, is also a big fan of the nap—so much so that her line has two separate collections devoted to the “power of sleep.”

“The last 18 months have been turbulent, and we’ve needed to prioritize sleep more than ever,” she says, pointing out that many studies show that even one night of lost sleep can have a negative impact on both physical and mental well-being. “It is essential not only for good health and well-being, but for survival as well. It protects mental and physical health, leading to a safe and better quality of life. Naps can be a useful tool to help maintain focus, productivity and motivation and research indicates that napping during work hours in the U.S. is on the rise, likely linked to working from home. The numbers even show that remote employees are two times more likely to take naps during the workday than their in-office counterparts.”

An hour nap can boost our alertness for up to 10 hours.

National Sleep Foundation

Like Murray, Persaud recommends the 20-minute time frame, but says a nap of 90 minutes has been shown to improve cognitive performance, mood and creativity—and since it’s the full sleep cycle where you go from a light to deep to light sleep, it helps prevent any sense of grogginess. “We have a natural afternoon energy slump between 1 and 3 p.m., which is an ideal time to take a nap. However, if a midday nap isn’t possible, then the window between 5 and 7 p.m. is also good for a short nap of 20 minutes. Even 20 minutes is long enough to give you an immediate uplift in alertness, performance and mood—yet short enough that you stay in a light sleep and wake easily, refreshed and ready to go.”

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