Saturday, December 13, 2008


“I just napped for two hours.” That was me bounding downstairs yesterday afternoon. I get away with this now that I am retired. Christine said, “Good for you but it would feel like a waste of time to me.” Admittedly, I have long felt that an entire night of sleep was a waste of time too. I have felt I didn’t need as much sleep as others did. For years I have awoken at 5 AM and been very productive before heading to the office. I love my quiet morning hours. I would customarily offset sleep deprivation with early afternoon power naps of 15-20 minutes which energized me for the rest of the day.

The expression power-nap was coined by Cornell University social psychologist James Maas. Long before he gave it a name, Latin American cultures, and people in tropical or subtropical countries have been taking siestas. That has been largely practical since the afternoon heat dramatically reduces work productivity. The benefits of power naps have been advocated by people like Winston Churchill, Leonardo DaVinci and Albert Einstein. In Bangladesh and Indian Bengal, the word which describes the concept is bhat-ghum, literally meaning "rice-sleep", a nap after lunch. Afternoon sleep is also a common habit in China and Taiwan after the midday meal. This is called xiuxi or wushui in Chinese.

The body requires 7-8 hours of sleep per day researchers tell us. Missed sleep has accumulative effects which impair reaction time, cognitive functioning, performance and contributes to moodiness, aggressive behaviors, burnout and stress. The body seems to be designed for the power nap since many people experience a natural drowsiness in the afternoon, about 8 hours after waking. Research shows that you can make yourself more alert, reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning with a nap. Mid-day sleep, or a ‘power nap’, means better judgment, keener memory, greater efficiency and better health. A one hour nap has more restorative effects than a 30 minute nap.

God is interested in our good rest. “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” —Psalm 3:4-5
“My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” —Proverbs 3:21-24

I don’t know whether your company will establish new policy yet in some places power napping has met the digital age with nap devices installed in work environments. Various designers have developed napping pods. One is called an EnergyPod, another a NapShell. They are everything anyone needs to get away from the world for a little bit. These have MP3 sound systems with speakers and headphone jacks, maybe closing doors that are soundproof and protect against peeping, LED lighting, air conditioning, a massage system and a flatscreen display. All of which you can enjoy while, uh, asleep.

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