Rebecca Blithe spends a week skiving off for afternoon naps in pursuit of more energy throughout her day.
Most Kiwis work their way through a 9 to 5 job, schlep home to wind down and fall into bed exhausted, aiming for eight hours of sleep. But is this how it should be? It's certainly not the modus operandi in some parts of the world, where a culture of mid-afternoon napping sees activity and productivity extend well into the night. I find myself arriving home after work each day feeling exhausted. Could setting aside 20 minutes for a daily kip on the job help energise me?
While the Spanish siesta is the best known practice of daytime napping, its origins are from Roman times, when days were divided into six-hour periods and it was believed to be a physical necessity. The practice has also been recorded in Islamic Law and features in the Koran.
While the traditional notion of siestas has, in some areas, become more about taking a couple of hours out of the day for a long lunch or to spend time with family, the idea of a daytime sleep has been picked up by tech companies such as Uber and Google. Both have installed dedicated nap spaces in their offices, ostensibly to encourage staff to recharge and get the best productivity (more work!) out of them.
It's commonly recommended that 10-20 minutes is the best length of time for some energising shuteye. Any longer and you may be hit by sleep inertia, which will leave you feeling groggy and disorientated rather than alert and ready for another round.
But if you can abide by the timeframe, research has found a range of benefits from short daytime naps.
In a study published in Behavioural Brain Research 2008, psychologist Sara Mednick found those who took an afternoon nap outperformed those who downed a cup of coffee in memory recall tests.
Last month a new study was published in the medical journal Heart. The research tracked a group of 3500 Swiss aged 35-75 as they took one or two daytime naps per week. The results showed a decreased risk of heart problems, including strokes and heart attacks, when compared to non-nappers.
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I started this test the week daylight saving kicked in; the week I started getting up in the dark again after a blissful intermission of seeing the sun rise at 5.45am. As much as "springing forward" sounds like some sort of bright-eyed wellbeing delight, I was particularly tired this week. On day one, with a 1pm booking in the office wellness room, I found myself counting down the hours until I could skive off for a nap.
The wellness room probably wasn't designed for sleep. It has fluorescent lighting and audible chatter from the office outside abounds: "Homemade pasta, wow." "Oh is she still in Bali?" "Have you got the downloadable version. Oh don't worry, I've got it."
I set an alarm for 20 minutes and - with the monotonous lullaby of a printer on the other side of the wall - did get about 10 minutes sleep. I know this because I dreamed I was running down a street and woke myself up with a kick to the wellness room wall as I tripped on a curb in my subconscious.
As much as I felt like a weasel telling my team, "I'm just going for my afternoon nap", I continued my excursions for the rest of the week, with varying results. There were days when it felt like there was too much going on at work to be away from my desk and inevitably I didn't find sleep. Instead I lay in the room ruminating over my task list instead of nodding off.
Usually I'm fighting leaded eyelids on my afternoon bus rides home. But on the days I did manage a short nap I was surprised to note I felt much more alert and didn't want to just collapse into the couch when I arrived home. I really did feel like I'd been given a reboot for the evening.
If you can train yourself to switch off from what's happening around you, there's definitely value in a short recharge in to keep powering through the day.