But just because the research is conclusive that naps boost performance, it doesn’t mean science has told us everything we need to know about them. Another question remains: Exactly what length of nap is best? Thankfully, science has an answer to this question, too.
A little napping goes a long, long way
It comes from the very precise folks at NASA, who studied naps to make sure sleepy pilots weren’t putting themselves or passengers at risk. Business Insider shared the bottom-line takeaway recently:
The space agency found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes showed alertness improvements of up to 54 percent and job-performance improvements by 34 percent, compared to pilots who didn’t nap.
When it comes to naps, short is generally better. Unless you have 90 minutes or more to devote to making up for last night’s lost shuteye, avoid spending more than a half hour asleep or your body will enter the deeper phases of sleep, making it harder to wake up and leaving you groggier longer once you do.
In fact, even 26 minutes might be too long if you need to spring straight into action with a clear mind upon waking. NASA’s ultimate recommendation is power naps between 10 and 20 minutes long. “You’ll get the most benefit from a sleep cycle without any of the grogginess associated with longer sleeping periods,” explains Business Insider.
Even just closing your eyes for a bit helps
And don’t stress if you’re one of those people who struggle to fall asleep the instant their head hits the pillow. As Elemental has reported, research shows that simply resting quietly with your eyes closed for a similar period of time will recharge you too.
“The National Sleep Foundation notes that quiet wakefulness can give brain cells, muscles, and organs a break, reducing stress and improving mood, alertness, creativity, and more,” sums up the article. Even better, if you know about these benefits, you’re less likely to keep yourself awake worrying about your ability to sleep when you try to nap.
So next time you’re tired at work, sleep (or at least try to). In just 10 to 20 minutes, you can improve your performance significantly. If anyone complains, point them to this NASA research and tell them that if catnaps are good enough for astronauts, they’re definitely good enough for business owners.