The benefits of sleeping on the job.

Beckie ManleyAdvertising, Creative Process, Entrepreneurship

I have to admit that I am a creative director who loves a power nap.

When I started my full time freelance business years ago, the first thing I did was go to Goodwill to find a couch. I found a cheap one, draped it in a cool blanket, and found it a home in my office. Every day around 4 pm I would take a quick 15 minute nap and I was ready to go for the remainder of the day. I kept late hours between juggling being a mom and working as a freelancer, so the nap came in handy for those long 3 am stretches. The nap and some Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee.

I am happy to know that these little power naps are a proven way to relieve stress and to boost productivity. I believe that to be true and never begrudge myself those 15-20 minutes when I can get them. In fact, when I re-wrote the employee guidelines at my previous agency, I made an allowance for our staff to literally sleep on the job. It’s just healthy when it’s needed.  Researchers at Saarland University in Germany found that an hour long nap improves memory performance fivefold. Awesome.

I love this excerpt from the Huffington Post on the science of napping:

Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests revealed that the brain’s activity during sleep seems to supercharge the hippocampus’s ability to consolidate information.

“The hippocampus, when awake, re-activates the neural firing pattern that was also active during learning,” Dr. Axel Mecklinger, a neuropsychologist at Saarland and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “This replay may produce ‘tags’ which are then used for consolidation during sleep.”

The researchers still don’t know, however, why some memories are strengthened during a short nap while others aren’t.

“Further studies will be required to unravel by which mechanisms the brain distinguishes between information that is retained or forgotten by sleep,” the study’s authors wrote, noting, however, that “a short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success.”

These days I don’t often get the luxury of a power nap but when I do, I take it, and I’m better for it.