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Keep calm and nap on

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Some forward-thinking companies such as Nike and Google offer places for their employees to nap. But for most North American workers, napping in the office is frowned upon. This is a shame, given the long list of benefits from an afternoon nap. Here are eight reasons we should embrace and encourage naps during the workday:

 

1. Napping makes you more

productive.

 

RESEARCH has shown that naps refresh our bodies, make us more attentive and improve our moods. It's in the best interest of employers and employees for everyone to be functioning at their best. Fatigue contributes to $18 billion a year in lost productivity in the United States, and when tired employees go home, they're at an increased risk of being in a car crash.

 

2. You'll likely live longer.

 

A 2007 study found that individuals who took a midday nap were more than 30 per cent less likely to die of heart disease. Napping also has been shown to lower blood pressure.

 

3. Winston Churchill napped throughout the Second World War.

 

THE anti-napping lobby might argue that we're all too busy at work to nap, so here's a dose of perspective. The leader of a nation deeply involved in the most widespread war in human history found time to nap. He snoozed as bombs rained down on the country he led and still emerged on the winning side with a legacy of being a great leader.

As the former British prime minister wrote in a memoir: "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."

If Churchill can beat Hitler while taking afternoon siestas, you can take a quick break from that report.

 

4. Some of the best minds

in history napped.

 

IF Churchill isn't a good enough celebrity endorsement for you, how about Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Napoleon or Albert Einstein. All were known to nap.

 

5. You'll be more creative.

 

RESEARCH has found REM sleep leads to a roughly 40 per cent boost in creativity. Napping was one way Salvador Dali got ready to work, writes Washington Post staff writer Dennis Drabelle:

"To prime the pump for his surrealist paintings (the melting watch, the human leg with a built-in chest of drawers, etc.), the Catalan-born artist used to take -- and abort -- a nap after lunch. He would sit down with his arms extending beyond the chair's arms. In one hand he would grasp a key between thumb and forefinger. After he fell asleep, his fingers would relax, the key would fall to the floor, the clatter would wake him up and he would harvest the wild associations common to the first few minutes of sleep."

 

6. Napping is natural.

 

THE overwhelming majority of mammals sleep in short periods throughout the day. Humans naturally tire in the early afternoon, struggle to focus and experience an increased desire to sleep. Yet society only gives us one period of the day to sleep.

"Nature definitely intended that adults should nap in the middle of the day, perhaps to get out of the midday sun," wrote noted sleep researcher William Dement in Sleep and Alertness: Chronological, Behavioral and Medical Aspects of Napping.

 

7. Napping is cheaper and more effective than coffee.

 

THE average American worker spends $1,092 a year on coffee. We need that caffeine burst to stay alert. But there are tradeoffs, which professor Sara Mednick, a sleep expert, points out:

"While it appears caffeine can keep you awake when sleep-deprived, complex cognitive processes do not fare well on this drug. A study compared caffeine with napping and placebo conditions on three memory domains: visual, motor and verbal. On caffeine, verbal and motor skills decreased, whereas napping enhanced performance across all three tasks. Furthermore, a study of caffeine withdrawal showed that the immediate enhancements seen after caffeine abstinence completely disappear with regular use. It appears the perceived benefits of caffeine may be more related to release from withdrawal symptoms rather than actual performance enhancement."

 

8. Highly productive nations have embraced naps without negative consequences.

 

LET'S hear it for Japan. While most of us are afraid to look like a slacker and rest our heads on our desks, the Japanese have overcome nap shame.

"When we see people napping during lunchtime, we think, 'They are getting ready to put 100 per cent in during the afternoon,'" says Paul Nolasco, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo.

-- Washington Post-Bloomberg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2014 A2

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