The Fifteen Minute Miracle

As a child, I used to love the feeling of waking up from a nap in the middle of the day — but I also remember fighting, crying, and resisting my mother’s firm voice which was saying something like, “I think you need to lie down for a while and take a nap.” “No, I don’t…. I’m not sleepy. I won’t be able to go to sleep, mom….nooooo.”
And then, after a few minutes of lying on my bed, I was off to dreamland. As an adult, I still resist the feeling of longing to rest or take a nap. I am determined to return one more phone call, get one more letter off, take one additional client, stop off and complete one more errand, check email or respond to email — I am constantly trying to tell myself what I say to clients: ‘LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!’
What are the advantages of a good solid 5-10 minutes nap, maybe 20 minutes maximum during your day? I can think of several:
1) Letting my body completely relax, closing my eyes, and breathing deeply (and possibly drifting off to sleep) recalibrates my ‘engine’. It forces me to stop operating at maximum speed or even sleepy speed and ‘idle’ for a while.
2) Studies have shown that productivity and creativity actually increases(dramatically) when a person takes quick 10-15 minute ‘cat naps’.
3) Our immune systems get a chance to gear up and fight off infections, headaches, and anything that stress somehow affects negatively when we allow our bodies to completely relax physically.
4) Emotionally, allowing ourselves “downtime” in the middle of a hectic, stress-filled, and angry day, is a terrific way to refocus our feelings. Again, I have my mother to thank for a great piece of advice.  When I was sure that my world had ended and life was looking bleak, her voice would gently remind me: “Honey, why don’t you just go to bed for now, and I think you’ll find that it will all look different tomorrow when you wake up.” And she was right.
5) Beth Jacobs, director of the insomnia program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is quoted as saying: “We hope the time will come when it’s routine during the workday to take a 20-minute nap instead of a 20-minute coffee break.”
6) Sleepiness is right behind drunkenness as the primary cause of auto accidents; if you want to live and keep your insurance rates down, let yourself take 15 minutes for a nap when you are tired.
7) When you find yourself fighting to stay focused, yawning often, and generally tired – try to break the habit (especially between 3:00 and 5:00) of reaching for a stimulant — sugar, carbohydrates or caffeine. If you can possibly shut your office door or find a quiet conference room or even go to your car for 15 minutes, let yourself relax and shut your eyes.
A valuable exercise is to carry a small alarm clock with you for two weeks. Whenever you are feeling the urge to nap come up, actually go and lie down for 15 minutes or stretch out in your office. Notice the difference when you wake up in your mindset, your interactions with others, and even your physical energy level. Track when you nap, how often you let yourself nap, and the results might be surprising.

Recommended Reading:

Say Good Night to Insomnia – Gregg Jacobs, PhD
The Art of Napping at Work – Camille & Bill Anthony