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While many in the business world may shun a nap, famous nappers include the likes of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Napolean, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison. People of various cultures all over the world indulge in an afternoon nap or ‘siesta’.
You may shrug and think that you just don’t have the time to stop–or that you don’t need to nap. Science suggests that we do benefit from naps, and these benefits can improve your leadership capabilities and your day-to-day life.
Whether you take a siesta, a riposo or just a nap, there are health benefits to be had. Taking a break in the afternoon traditionally began as a way to handle the heat of the day. In Spain, the siesta is part of business-as-usual, and everyone expects the afternoon respite. In Italy, the riposo also shuts down businesses, churches and museums.
A plethora of research discusses the benefits of napping. Napping can improve logical reasoning, reduce the number of times that a task has to be repeated, increase vigour and improve psychomotor speed. Research has shown that naps can improve cognitive performance, and the benefits are there for both younger and older people (Milner, 2009).
Knowing how long to nap can be crucial for the best outcome. If you only rest your eyes for 5 minutes, you won’t get the real benefit of a nap, and if you sleep for an hour, you’ll feel sleep inertia, which causes confusion and grogginess.
Many people see the maximum benefit with a nap between 20-40 minutes. When you start to feel tired and exhausted in the afternoon, find a quiet spot to close your eyes and rest. Even laying your head down on your desk is beneficial.
Think about your decision-making capability. A short nap can help you focus and be better prepared to make decisions. It can also help consolidate memories as if you would have had a good night sleep, says Australian sleep expert, Dr. Carmel Harrington. If you know you have to make important decisions in an afternoon meeting, for example, you may want to have a 20 min nap.
Sleep in general, is very important in memory consolidation. What we know is that, if after you’ve tried to learn a task, and you sleep-deprive individuals, the ability to learn that task is smashed. It’s really hugely attenuated. However, it’s not just the laying down of memory and recalling it. What’s turned out to be really exciting is that our ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by sleep. In fact, it’s been estimated to give us a threefold advantage.
Sleeping enhances our creativity. And what seems to be going on is that, in the brain, those neural connections that are important are linked and strengthened, while those that are less important tend to fade away and become less important.
Neuroscience has helped us unlock the mysteries of the human mind. Paying attention to your brain and your body as a leader is critical if you want to perform at an optimal level. A balanced brain will help you perform under pressure and spark the innovation needed to thrive. Integrating your mind and body can help awaken your true potential.
In summary, sleeping at night can improve your performance and creativity. But a short nap can leave you feeling recharged and better able to have your memory replenished and improve your decision-making process. Whether you are maintaining daily operations or spearheading a new project, napping can help you find the solution.
Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18(2), 272-281. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x
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