What do Uber, Google and Ben & Jerry’s have in common? Aside from being some of the world’s biggest companies, they’re all offering employees ‘nap rooms’ – cocooned, quiet areas where workers can catch a mid-afternoon nap. It seems the need for a mid-day snooze is so great, it’s given rise to a whole workday sleep industry too… and now the pay-per-power nap model has come to London.
Pop & Rest has brought the Japanese nap pod trend to the City, giving tired commuters and travellers the chance to disconnect and refresh in a private space, while the Simba Snoozeliner – a futuristic ‘sleep bus’ allowing commuters to snooze in special compartments on their way to work – is set to be launched on eight routes later this year.
We’ve long since ditched the notion that it’s cool not to sleep, so could embracing daytime naps soon be commonplace? History is full of powerful leaders with penchants for afternoon kips (Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Napoleon to name a few), and it looks like they were onto something.
In a recent study, University of Pennsylvania researchers discovered having a nap after lunch improved people’s thinking and memory, and may have even helped their brains perform as if they were five years younger. The study concluded that one hour was the optimal nap length, while other studies have suggested 20 minutes is all you need to feel refreshed and improve brain function – the bottom line is, everyone’s ‘ideal’ nap length is slightly different, so you may need a bit of trial and error to work yours out.
But sleep expert Matthew Walker – Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Why We Sleep claims napping can be a double-edged sword. He explains while we’re awake during the day, we’re building up sleepiness or ‘sleep pressure’ so we’re able to fall asleep easily at night.
“If you take a nap during the day, especially if you take it too late in the afternoon, you will actually release some of that sleepiness and it will make it that much more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep soundly throughout the night,” Walker explains, advising those who struggle with falling asleep in the evening to avoid naps altogether
The solution? Make like the participants in the University of Pennsylvania’s survey and take a nap right after lunch to ensure you have enough time to build up sleep pressure before you hit the pillow again. It’s likely this is when you’ll be feeling sleepiest too – it’s called the ‘post-lunch dip’ for a reason, and usually occurs between 1-4pm (even if you haven’t eaten lunch).
For those wanting a quick nap for up to 30-minutes, the Power Nap App is on hand to help you drift off with relaxing soundtracks and pleasant alarm sounds, while this genius Nap Wheel helps you plan the ultimate nap by figuring out exactly when your post-lunch dip is most likely to occur.
But remember – sleep isn’t like the bank. “You can’t accumulate a sleep debt and then hope to pay it off at some later point in time,” Walker says – revealing naps are no substitute for getting eight hours a night, simply an additional way to boost productivity in the afternoon.