There is nothing quite like a Power Nap to heal the mind and refresh the body. However, in America, napping during the day is reserved only for infants and the retired. If you’re young or successful in your middle-age you are required — by presupposition of your citizenry — to remain awake during the daylight hours even though there is strong medical research suggesting a Power Nap during the day can make you an even more efficient worker. Here’s the research as reported in a 2002 National Institutes of Health report entitled “Power Nap” Prevents Burnout; Morning Sleep Perfects a Skill:

“Burnout” — irritation, frustration and poorer performance on a mental task — sets in as a day of training wears on. Subjects performed a visual task, reporting the horizontal or vertical orientation of three diagonal bars against a background of horizontal bars in the lower left corner of a computer screen. Their scores on the task worsened over the course of four daily practice sessions. Allowing subjects a 30-minute nap after the second session prevented any further deterioration, while a 1-hour nap actually boosted performance in the third and fourth sessions back to morning levels.

The New York Times expanded on the study:

Researchers put 30 well-rested people through the same set of tasks — distinguishing between shapes that were displayed very briefly — four times in the course of day, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 7 p.m. They found that performance dropped by more than 50 percent in 10 subjects who stayed awake the whole time. The 10 people who napped for an hour in the early afternoon were able to restore their performances. The 10 people who napped briefly rebounded a bit.

In 2003 the BBC continued to bang the drum in support of Power Napping:

Remarkably, over 24 hours, the performance of those who took a good-quality “power-nap” was as good as volunteers in previous studies who were tested after two full nights’ sleep.

With all this medical research pointing to the benefits of napping during the day, why is the Power Nap not made mandatory by American businesses and the health insurance industry? A Power Nap means fewer mistakes. Fewer mistakes can lead to healthier people who avoid getting injured by being more alert. It is truly unfortunate how Power Napping is culturally condemned in America — and for that reason alone we should lose a night’s sleep.

I find a 20 minute Power Nap works wonders. I close my eyes and meditate on the nothing in front of me and — like clockwork — I “re-awaken” 20 minutes later refreshed and ready to go! I rarely take a 60 minute nap — though after reading all this hard medical evidence supporting the benefits of 360 seconds of bliss, I should reconsider the temptation of a longer nap. Currently if I Power Nap for more than 20 minutes I find it harder to wake up later and it takes me longer to “come around” to the side of the waking.

There is also an old Yoga saying “one cannot be depressed with open armpits.” I always open my armpits during my Power Nap because I am immediately cooler and released. My forearms become a pillow behind my head. If you’re ever feeling down or blue, raise your arms, and you will soon feel better. You can’t try to explain the benefits — you just need to raise your arms to feel the release of tension and toxins. I’d share more Power Napping and Armpit Tips with you but… I’m feeling a little sleepy right now…


  1. I remember napping when in college and graduate school. It always did wonders to take a short nap in the afternoon between classes.
    Too bad business is so focused on always being productive every second of the work day.
    Sometimes, I feel like a nap after lunch would do the trick to keep me alert and able to work the rest of the day. There just isn’t enough time built into the work day to be able to take a 20 minute nap, unfortunately.

  2. Chris —
    Would you give up part of your lunchtime to take a quick Power Nap?
    Is there no way to schedule 20 minutes into your afternoon for some sleeping? If you did schedule that time for a Power Nap, how would your colleagues view you?

  3. Actually, I’ve gone home to take naps when I’m in the office since I live close by. When I’m on the road, I’ll often take a walk around the block or get lunch to feel refreshed if I have a break in a long day.
    My situation is different since I’m fairly autonomous in the work that I do and am on the road a lot. My productivity isn’t necessarily measured by the gross number of hours I’m in the office sitting at my desk.
    But, I know for the people who are punching clocks, it would be impossible the way businesses are structured.

  4. I think the only way for Mandatory Power Napping will happen in America, Chris, is if it becomes too costly to NOT let workers get some rest during the day:
    1. Attorneys are sued for losing cases because they were “nap-deprived.”
    2. Students start winning university grade appeals because there isn’t a timeslot built into the day schedule for nap time.
    3. An officer is found guilty of an unwarranted shooting because he had a sleepless night and his Captain refused to let him catch 40 winks before being sent out on a call.
    Aren’t there laws on the books in some communities where people can be arrested for being “sleep deprived” while driving? I don’t know how being in a sleep deficit is quantified in a field test or a blood exam — but the idea sure is interesting.

  5. There are cases where criminal defense attorneys have fallen asleep during their client’s murder trials.
    From the Politics of Execution:

    In Houston itself, the city with the most capital cases in the country, there have been at least three documented cases of court-appointed defense lawyers falling asleep in court. As a Houston newspaper described one of these cases:
    “Seated beside his client – a convicted capital murderer – defense attorney John Benn spent much of Thursday afternoon’s trial in apparent deep sleep. His mouth kept falling open and his head lolled back on his shoulders, and then he was awakened just long enough to catch himself and sit upright. Then it happened again. And again. And again.

    I wonder if it’s a defense strategy to get an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel?
    If it wasn’t, it’s a sure sign that a nap might have made a difference.

  6. Hi Chris,
    Yes, I’ve always wondered about attorneys who sleep during trials. Have there been any cases where “sleeping as a defense strategy” worked and won the defendant a new trial?
    Why doesn’t the judge stop the trial? Isn’t the judge complicit in the lack of effective counsel if counsel is asleep at the table and the judge doesn’t wake up the attorney?
    Can a client — on either side of a case — stand up in court and say, “Hey, my attorney is asleep! Can we stop until he wakes up?”

  7. Hi Robin!
    A sugar crash is not a good thing! Janna gets them from eating too many MMs during the day and then when she gets exhausted an hour later she wonders why she didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I tell her complex carbohydrates will stop that sugar crash but she prefers the taste of MMs over a wheat bagel or some soba noodle pasta!

  8. Robin!
    I think you are making an excellent point that the need for a sugar fix is actually a need for a nap.
    Since we are conditioned to eat when feeling tired instead of napping when feeling tired, we reach for the MMs or the piece of cake or the soda pop — but that only worsens our condition by conditioning us to expect a crash later when our blood sugar recovers from the artificial spike we just injected into our unwitting systems.

  9. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a few MMs and a soy mocha latte! I love a good nap but I only have time for them on the weekends.

  10. Heh! Okay. There you are. Yes, I know you love caffeine and sugar, but you’d be less tired if you didn’t get on those highs when what your body is really craving is a Power Nap!

  11. Sugar might be my biggest enemy…and I just love it so. I just had a little cake (another damn party here) so I hope nobody notices if I take a nap under my desk.

  12. I don’t usually get time to take a nap, but I really feel fresh if I do! The problem is even a 20 minutes nap goofs up my sleep cycle at night! I am wide awake till 2:00 am!!! 🙁

  13. Hi Katha —
    Sleep cycles are interesting. 20 minutes and I’m okay and refreshed. 60 minutues and I’m tempting not being able to go to sleep at the right time later in the day.

  14. I love naps. Unless I’m really *really* sick, I always feel better after having one. I work in an office now, so – as for most – the opportunity rarely presents itself.
    I suspect perhaps the interference with the regular sleep cycle is because naps aren’t a regular thing. If they were instated as mandatory (which they should be :-P) then I’m sure things would iron out sleep-pattern-wise.

  15. Hi David,
    I haven’t read the cases where the attorney was asleep — I’ve only seen the news/advocacy coverage of the issue. When I get some time, I’m going to have to look for the case.
    If I was the defendant, I would have asked for a recess, since there was something wrong with the attorney, and for a new attorney to be appointed to the case since the other attorney was unable to stay awake. An unconscious attorney could be a sign of some medical condition and therefore it would be appropriate to request that the court halt the proceedings.
    Here’s what the defendant’s new attorney said in a 2001 BBC report after an appeals court ordered a new trial in the case:

    “The full court has affirmed what we have said all along – namely that a sleeping attorney is the same as no attorney and that a death penalty trial conducted under these circumstances violates basic notions of fairness and decency,” he said.

  16. Hey Chris!
    I am happy to learn how you would handle the situation. So during a court trial a defendant can stand up and directly ask the court for a recess?
    Attorneys asleep during a case don’t deserve to have human beings as clients. Let them do research or file papers but they should not have the responsibility for the lives of others in their nodding hands.

  17. Hi David,
    If I was pro-se and my attorney fell asleep, I’d make a point of trying to get the judge’s attention if I couldn’t get the attorney awake. Just trying to wake up the attorney should cause someone to take notice of the situation — I’d hope that a bailiff or a clerk would notice if the judge was busy listening to the testimony at the time.
    I haven’t read the case, but I wonder if the defendant tried to bring up the issue to the court? Even if one had been disruptive in the past, it would seem that the court would have to take notice of a sleeping attorney and take action to remedy the situation — either through a recess or admonishing the attorney to stay awake.
    Most cases are fairly quick, so losing 10 or 20 minutes here and there could make a difference, especially in a two day trial.

  18. This is excellent advice, Chris!
    I hope I will never have to use it — because I’m in court or because my attorney is napping on the job — but it’s good to know what rights I can invoke if the sleep arises.

  19. A couple of my employees nap during their lunch hour.
    I basically have no problem with them doing it and I think it makes them overall more productive in the afternoon. But, if the powers that be, ever found out they would not be happy. They’ve made it clear that they think it extremely unprofessional and would probably effect their future promotion potential. Short sighted I know, but …
    So I’ve warned my staff, that if you do sleep during your lunch hour to be very careful where you choose to do it.

  20. Hi Ken —
    Why would it be a problem for your workers to be caught napping during their lunch hour? Isn’t the lunch hour theirs alone to decide how to use?

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