It's not even noon, but you can't keep your eyes open another second. Now the hard, polished surface of the conference table looks like the perfect resting place. In fact, you'd trade anything for a short nap.
If you feel sleepy during your busy work day, you're not alone. According to a 1992 report by the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, which was created by Congress in 1989, Americans in general are grossly sleep-deprived. Most of them get 20 percent less sleep than people did 100 years ago, the commission's report says.
The cost of this national need for shut-eye is staggering. The commission estimated that in 1990 the cost of accidents, lost productivity, and poor decision making related to sleepiness was $15.9 billion.
In a January 1994 survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council, a nonprofit organization supported by the bedding industry, one in five adults surveyed said they have at some time called in sick or have showed up late for work because they didn't sleep well the night before.
This national sleep deficit could be easily reduced if exhausted employees and employers alike simply napped once a day. But napping still bears a heavy social stigma in our highly productive, fast-paced society.
"It's associated with laziness because we don't put a very high value on sleep," explains Andrea Herman, director of the Better Sleep Council, based in Alexandria, Va. The group wants to restore sleep to its rightful place in what it calls the triumvirate of health--eating properly, exercising regularly, and sleeping well.
Nightly sleep requirements vary among adults, but 7 to 10 hours is the norm. During that time, the body moves in and out of physically healing NREM (nonrapid eye movement) sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes. This is when the body's metabolism slows down enough to permit repair of the daily wear and tear on the whole system.
Roughly a fifth of slumber time is spent in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, or dreamland, where a lot of psychological healing is accomplished. Interruption or shortening of either sleep cycle intensifies the midday sleepiness already determined by the body's circadian rhythms, which set sleep and other physiological patterns.
The midday slump, say researchers at the Institute for Circadian Physiology, in Cambridge, Mass., is totally natural and has virtually nothing to do with lunchtime dietary indiscretions. People who rise and shine around 7 o'clock usually conk out between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. Earlier risers start dragging at noon and don't perk up until 2 o'clock. But because the slump is exacerbated by sleep debt, some doctors are becoming strong advocates of napping.
Dr. Jeffrey Migdow, who practices holistic medicine and directs yoga programs at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Lenox, Mass., says napping has a venerable tradition. Ancient yogis, having discovered how napping relieved stress on the nervous and immune systems, built 20 to 30 minutes of it into their daily practices.
"In 10 to 15 minutes, today's business person can get the same benefits," Migdow says. "The body is a very resilient system that to rejuvenate. If you take time to turn the nervous system off, the whole system recharges."
Dr. Karl Doghramji, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia, recommends naps only for people who suffer sleep deprivation, not for sufferers of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, in which breathing stops temporarily, or narcolepsy, a frequent and uncontrollable desire for sleep. "I do not recommend napping, in fact I forbid it, for people who are insomniacs, or who have a weak sleep drive," he cautions. "If you're getting eight hours of sleep at night and still need a daily nap, then something else might be going on in your sleep that needs medical attention."
If you're not getting eight hours of sleep and suspect a daytime snooze might boost your creativity, productivity, and mood, here's how to make it work:
1. To avoid disrupting your circadian rhythms, schedule your nap about eight hours after waking and eight hours before bedding down for the night.
2. Create a routine that includes napping even on days you don't feel particularly tired.
3. Lie down to nap if possible--it's the optimal position.
4. Close your office door and turn off your phone so you don't subliminally worry about being disturbed.
5. Take a minute for some slow, deep breaths before hunkering down. These will help your body relax into sleep.
6. After you wake up, take a minute to reorient yourself by taking a few more deep breaths and stretching. Don't kick into gear too abruptly. Such a shock to the nervous system undermines the wonderful benefits of napping.
Meredith Gould "Power napping - benefits of middday sleeping". Nation's Business. FindArticles.com. 07 Sep, 2009. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1154/is_n2_v83/ai_16420323/