Arianna Huffington is a self-confessed ‘sleep evangelist’ advocating a 10 minute snooze during the working day to recharge your batteries, boost performance and even improve your career prospects.
In her book “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time”, Huffington talks about how she learned the hard way why rest is so important when she passed out from exhaustion and awoke in a pool of her own blood from a broken cheekbone, “We are all living under delusion — the type-A delusion that we have to burn out in order to succeed. The science is in now.”
According to Huffington, the implications and benefits of a decent kip are not simply for the individual but have enormous implications for business as well. In a recent study from the RAND Corporation it cited that a lack of sleep costs the U.S economy around $411 billion a year due to a lack of productivity. Comparative losses were also reported in Japan ($138 billion) and Germany ($60 billion). So which country has the most rested work force? Canada. But even our super chilled Canuck friends are losing 80,000 working days a year due to an insufficient amount of sleep.
So is Huffington alone in her assertions that we all need to find time in the working day for forty winks? Well it seems that the likes of Jeff Bezos, Ashton Kutcher and Kobe Bryant are also exponents of a quick doze during the day. And the science backs it up with 5 clear benefits:
1. Improved patience – the ‘Personality and Individual Differences’ study from the University of Michigan clearly indicates that people deal better with tasks when they are more rested. The test subjects had to work on a frustrating task by drawing geometric designs on a computer screen. The participants who had a 60 minute nap prior to the experiment stuck at task for almost twice as long as the group who didn’t have a bit of shut-eye.
2. Recall more – a German study discovered that taking a nap for an hour can significantly improve our ability to remember data points. The research asked subjects to remember specific word pairings and then half the group watched some television whilst the other half had a little sleep. You won’t be surprised to hear that the group who had a nap were more successful. However, you might be shocked to hear that they performed five times better.
3. Recharge your Creativity – a University of California conducted by psychiatrist Sara Mednick discovered that people who take REM naps, where you enter a deep dream sleep, were found to be much more creative when it came to problem solving than those who didn’t have an REM sleep.
4. Accelerate Alertness – NASA studied their pilots and found that after napping for forty minutes they were far more alert whilst a similar study discovered that after just ten minutes participants felt more alert which, incidentally, is the minimum time recommended by Huffington.
5. Think Sleep – of course actually taking a nap has clear benefits but it transpires that just thinking about taking some time out can also be beneficial. A study in the UK found that the blood pressure of participants dropped before they fall asleep simply by anticipating that they are about to take a nap
The notion of a siesta in Spain is commonplace but maybe not as widely known is the way many people take a catnap at their desk in China. I’ve experienced this first hand at our offices in both Shanghai and Beijing with many people bringing in a pillow or cushion to rest their heads on, the lights being turned down, window shades drawn and the noise levels being kept to a minimum.
So what do you think? Does hitting the hay during the day have a positive effect on your productivity or does it make no discernable difference? Even if it does have a favourable outcome, is it realistic to have the workforce conk out for a minimum of 10 minutes each day? As ever, I am keen to hear your thoughts. Now, I need a lie down in a dark room…