“Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?” – Leonardo da Vinci, notorious napper
As you begin to recover from Thanksgiving and think back to the naps you likely enjoyed as a result of the turkey and stuffing overload (or maybe even an exhausting conversation with a particularly chatty relative), I have good news for you: There’s no need to be ashamed of nap-taking anymore.
That’s right, contrary to what American society has been telling adults since the dawn of the 9-5 age, scientists now say that naps are actually good for you. The bottom line is most of us aren’t getting enough sleep at night – in fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed insufficient sleep a public health problem – so supplementing with a midday nap can not only help us catch up, it makes us more efficient.
It’s a hot topic, with everyone from celebrities to entrepreneurs weighing in. In fact, history shows that some of the most hardworking men and women of our past made time to get some extra Z’s – including Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, and John F. Kennedy.
The numbers back the theories, too. A study done by NASA on tired military pilots found that performance increased by 34% after a 40-minute nap and alertness went up 100%. Beyond productivity, another study – this one conducted for the Edinburgh International Science Festival – shows that sleep can also make us happier. That’s right, 66% of “short nappers” (those who dozed off for 30 minutes or less) reported feeling happy, versus 56% of “long nappers” and 60% of those who didn’t nap at all. Based off a survey of psychologically-focused questions, short nappers had an average happiness score of 3.67 on a five-point scale, no-nappers 3.52 and long nappers 3.44.
The US is late to the napping game, however. We tend to embrace phrases like “no rest for the weary,” and use similar colloquialisms of martyrdom without even thinking about it. Our culture is one of doing – no matter what the effect it may have on other aspects of our lives. We’ve been brought up in the context of the “American dream” and are clear on the connection between individual effort and upward advancement. But have we gone too far and actually missed the fact that effort and effectiveness are not actually the same? Many other cultures are just as productive (if not more) and live much happier, more fulfilling lives. It’s something to think about.
While we often view napping as an indication of laziness or even carelessness, many other cultures have long recognized it as beneficial and often essential to productivity. In fact, some even build naps into the work day, with companies like Siesta and Go, Madrid’s first nap-bar, popping up all over Europe and in Asia.
So, don’t be ashamed if you need a few extra Z’s in the middle of the day. In fact, maybe you should embrace it. And encourage it. As businessmen and women, we’ll do whatever it takes to move the needle for our company – and perhaps in 2018 we should think about shutting our eyelids a little bit more. What do you think?