The Irony of Power Napping at Work: It’s only for the Powerful

It is 8:24 am. Three cups of coffee, two coke zeros and one bag of gummies and I am still tired.  And I have six meetings to look forward to throughout the day. That is, six meetings that I know of. Who knows how many countless unexpected crazy meetings are before me today?  Further, what will be the state of mind of those with whom I meet throughout the day?   What anger management issues will I have to address?  What nutty, conspiracy theory (everyone is out to get me) will I have to listen to and somehow address during the workday? What weird statements will I have to deal with because I am a female manager who takes the same actions as a fellow male supervisor yet my actions are the ones labeled as wrong? (just a hypothetical and that is a whole other blog entry).

What I really do not expect from any of the people I meet with today is for any of them to be any less tired or caffeinated than I am. With 63% of Americans getting 6 hours or less of sleep at night there is most definitely an “exhaustion bubble” waiting to burst and spew forth in ugly ways in the workplace. With all the sitting, nodding, listening, contorting my face into signs of caring and wanting to pull my hair out moments, I believe a nap would be most helpful at some point in the day. Hell, Ms. Arianna Huffington herself advocates for “power naps.”  That must be the right thing to do then.

What are the benefits of power napping at work?  In a recent study, researchers at NASA found that a 30-minute power nap increased cognitive faculties by approximately 40%.  Further, a recent study from Georgetown University Medical Center found that when participants rested in 15-minute periods, the right hemisphere of their brains “talked” to itself and to the left hemisphere, while the left hemisphere remained relatively quiet.   Ok; so what you may ask? Well, remember what you learned in school about the right vs. left side of the brain? The right hemisphere is known to be involved with creativity.  Thus, if the right brain is firing away while you are napping the creativity areas in your brain may be getting juiced up.  That’s my interpretation. The scientists noted that the action of the right-brain talking away while one is napping could be that it is “doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories.”  Ok, that’s good too. It means that your brain is chunking information that you can better access at a later time.  Consequently, napping can help you be more productive at work.   What is even cooler about napping is that naps can help you calm down by cutting down your cortisol in half.  Research shows that cortisol-the stress hormone- dramatically drops after naptime, especially if you happen to have had a bad night. So, perhaps there would be less people going postal if we just treated life as if it were a Pre-K class: institute mandatory nap times.  Instead of bringing your yoga mats to work, bring a blankie and get that right brain juiced up.

Now that we have established the wonderful benefits of power napping let’s think about this more closely. Ms. Arianna Huffington went on national television, getting wide media coverage, to note how we all need to take “power naps” in the middle of the day without any real sense of irony.  Thanks for telling me I need sleep. Guess what, where in my schedule of 6 meetings and counting does a nap fit in? I can even hardly ever make it to the restroom during the day without even being followed. And, I don’t mean being followed by an assistant who will unwrap the toilet paper for me (where do I get one of those assistants Lady Gaga?)? I get followed by bosses, staff and creepy ex-employees who want to chat or need guidance. Here is some guidance-if you let people use the restroom in peace they may be happier and more willing to guide you properly.  Also, a restroom break is when I get to power nap for 10 seconds. Did you know those are called micro naps?  Seems to me some lame executive who wanted to squeeze more out of his employees came up with such a term.  Sure, take a micro nap and get right back to work. Anyway, sitting in the warm restroom hiding from everyone is my respite for the day.  Perhaps I can even take a power nap in the middle of a meeting and just explain the health benefits of said napping when I get the evil death star looks. Everyone would be cool with that, right?

Yeah, power naps exist for the powerful who can delegate and walk around with three assistants texting, calling and managing their day-to-day lives.  When people go on television to talk about the importance of napping, they often cite famous nappers such as Bill Clinton, Lance Armstrong, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison. Do I need to even touch that list?  Powerful men who at times were caught in scandals.  Sure, take a nap.

Times have changed.  There are constant workplace “fires” that need to be put out; whether it is a disgruntled, depressed or delirious employee or a document that absolutely must be finished by close of business that no one else knows how to complete other than you.  Trust me.  If I could I would go under my desk, lay my head on my 30 pairs of shoes and close my eyes and dream of Hawaii. However, that is just not very realistic.  Have you seen the “ostrich pillow” that creates a place where one can did one’s head into in order to create a quiet space anywhere to nap?   You can probably catch a glimpse of it as a midnight infomercial while you are up working to meet an impossible deadline.  The ostrich pillow besides being funny is quite telling. Sometimes out of incompetence or self-preservation people need to just ignore the workplace anger-cesspool and just bury their head in the metaphorical sand for a few.  Should I go ahead and place a business order for such pillows?  Back in California, I met some employees that managed to take naps in the middle of the day. They would do so by going out to their cars (because everyone there has a car more or less) and take an hour-long nap. The New Yorker in me thought that was a bit dangerous.  In New York, I can guess they can go to the park and nap? Perhaps an ostrich pillow would be safer.

Researchers have also come up with the term “prophylactic” nap: If you have to be up all night, take a two-hour or a four-hour nap beforehand. Supposedly, that prophylactic nap provides additional alertness the next day. But why do you have to be up all night? Does that not that concern people more?   Can a power nap help someone not burn out? As today’s workplaces continue to be hotbeds of stress and frustration, we may just have to revert to childhood development tactics instilling time outs and rest time.  But sure would be nice if we could address the overall problem of increased productivity and stagnant wages.  If we addressed that underlying problem, we may just be able to sleep better at night after all and not need to nap during the day.  Not that we really can anyway.

If you want to watch the segment on the power nap:

If you want to learn more about the ostrich pillow:

4 replies »

  1. Power-anything seems so contradictory. Power-nap: hurry up and relax quickly, you’ve got lots to do. Power-lunch: cram that food down because you’re still in a meeting and have less time because of your power-nap. Power-station … well that one makes sense.


    • hah. yes, power lunch. How could I forget about that one? If we ever make out to eat its all about cramming it down while trying to cram in business agendas as well.

      power station-wasnt that an ’80s band 😉


      • I forgot about the band(s): Power Station including Robert Palmer, and Kraftwerk, a German band named with the German word for Power Station.
        Music, that’s my blogular expertise, but I honestly love being schooled in it! Thanks!


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