Ready, Steady and….Relax: How rest boosts productivity

Stress. Burnout. Exhaustion. The words ring around the media every day. Life has become faster. The world is smaller and the myriad methods of communication mean talking, texting, Skyping and broadcasting is possible 24 hours a day around the globe. There are more meetings to go to, earlier starts, later bedtimes, lists of “things to do before you die”, lists of things to do before noon!

In order to outwit Stress – that monster just waiting in the wings to club the next busy person and drag him back to its cave – the standard advice is to relax, get some exercise and keep in touch with friends. So laptops are taken to bed, emails are sent and received in what should be the dusky twilight of slumber, Facebook is checked last thing at night and first thing in the morning and most people tweet before the birds have even risen. 
Then there’s the gym subscription to fulfil before work starts. Oh, and a sneaky peek at the work emails on the way there – just to be prepared for the day ahead. Where does it all lead? More stress, burnout and exhaustion.

And yet, there always seems to be one friend or colleague that is laid back and relaxed, that person who perpetually “goes with the flow”. How very frustrating. They don’t “need” a second coffee before lunch and they’re also not to be found staring into space in an apparent biscuit-coma by 2.30pm. How do they do it? They may have learned that it’s the quality of output that counts, not the quantity. In recent years, the emphasis has shifted from working hard to working smart. Work means many different things to different people, so the directive “work smarter” would seem a tad general. However, there is one strategy that can be worked into any daily routine: napping.

Once seen as something that the old and grey would be found doing in an easy chair in front of daytime TV, napping is now advocated by the world of health and business. Several studies have shown that naps taken during the day can increase focus, reduce stress and even regulate appetite. There are many famous nappers who credit their daytime slumber for essential rejuvenation in carrying out their duties. Winston Churchill famously quipped: “Nature had not intended mankind to work from 8 in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” Salvador Dali was in favour of the micro-nap, aiming for the slumber to last only a minute. Leonardo DaVinci reportedly napped several times during the day, taking only a few hours’ sleep at night. Other famous nappers include: President JF Kennedy, Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte and that most quotable lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

With endorsement from so many of the world’s greatest minds, napping should have a great reputation, so how come it doesn’t? There is a certain negative connotation associated with napping; it is almost treated as a weakness – “if you snooze, you lose”. But the scientific community is disagreeing. Many studies show that a 20 minute nap is optimal for improving focus and performance and eliminates the craving for pick-me-ups like coffee and sugar normally experienced in the afternoon.

Three ways to nap:

When tired, sleep. It is a simple, natural response to a physical and mental need.

Need more time in the day? Plan a nap. This may seem counter-intuitive when every second needs to count. But it will ward off the mid-afternoon and mid-evening slump and make you more productive in between and able to go longer.

Tired every day and in need of rejuvenation? Get into a napping habit. It will take time to practise, but the benefits are limitless.

Laurent Kelly is a freelance writer for UK Essays, an essay writing service which caters to students across the globe in all subject areas. 



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