I stood on a beach with a large crew. We were filming a TV commercial for a major corporation. The plan was to put the ad into heavy rotation during the upcoming Olympics. I was the neophyte assistant to the prop master, who was in charge of making sure all parts of the set were properly assembled, positioned, working, and good looking. And I was tired.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon. We’d been there since 4:30 a.m., and we had hours left to go. We had labored on large props, raked sand smooth, hauled equipment hither and yon. Already I’d been hit in the head with a long metal pole. (I was fine. But still…) By now I was dog tired. I needed to shut my eyes for a few moments.
The chance arrived. We had nothing to do for a half-hour; the scene being shot didn’t need me. A group of people huddled around cameras fifty yards away; the rest of the crew sat, waiting. I plopped down wearily on an idle golf-cart jitney we’d been using for transport. I leaned back, covered my face with my hat, and closed my eyes.
Seconds later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I raised the hat and looked up. A crew member leaned in, whispering urgently: “The boss says no sleeping on the job! And the money people are here.” I sat up abruptly. I knew at once I’d committed a faux-pas. Shortly I learned that the “money people” were representatives of the corporation. My little time-out in front of these customers would reflect badly on the crew, and especially on my boss the prop master.
I got paid anyway. Years later I’m older and somewhat wiser. I know that, in America, naps are usually considered poor form, almost a weakness, and that no up-and-coming careerist would dare indulge in so lazy an activity at work.
But I wanna nap!!
A refreshed brain works better than a merely caffeinated one. And a quick bout of shuteye can give workers a leg up on the competition. Besides, a nap feels wonderful. So I did some research:
1. Naps are normal. Many cultures make room for an afternoon siesta. Studies show that people tend naturally to feel sleepy around mid-afternoon. It’s as if we’re designed to catch a few winks after lunch.
2. Naps are good for you. They freshen memory and cognition. They’re good for your heart. And you don’t need to indulge in a long session: a “power nap” of as little as 10 minutes can restore alertness and function. (In fact, long naps can make you groggy and slow you down.)
3. Many successful people take naps. Edison took cat naps. So did Kennedy. Rockefeller napped his way to riches. Da Vinci engaged in polyphasic sleep. Charlemagne and Napoleon had long daily naps — and they each conquered Europe. Churchill napped during WWII — and he helped save Europe.
4. Many organizations promote napping. They’ve seen the wisdom, and the added productivity, of encouraging a quick snooze by employees.
Still, most businesses frown on the practice. And for certain occupations, including transportation and security work, falling asleep can get you fired and/or sued. So you’ll want to approach the workday nap with caution. Here are a few tips and tricks:
A. Learn the rules for your organization. Some won’t care if you nap, while others will terminate you merely for sleeping in your car during lunch. Be sure you know the ropes.
B. Find a good place to nap. If you have an office with window shades and a lockable door, you’re halfway there. If you can further assure yourself that no one will knock and insist you respond, then simply set an alarm for wake-up time, shut off the phone, lean back and tuck into a nice set of Zs. But most workers don’t have a separate office, so they’ll need to cobble together a time and place. The best times are lunch or afternoon break. Possible locations include:
—Company nap room (if you’re lucky)
—Lockable room at work (if you can find one)
—Your car (look for a quiet parking space, and bring earplugs)
—Office library (use a carrel in a far corner)
—Your home (if you live nearby)
—Park bench or grassy slope (if you’re willing to brave the pigeons)
—Hotel room (if you’ve got enough dough)
—Office rooftop (bring a folding chair)
—A landing on a stairwell that nobody ever uses
—A little-used office bathroom (lock yourself into a stall)
—Some other place you can adapt (use your imagination)
C. Be stealthy! Don’t tell others about your napping plans. They might rat you out — or, worse, steal your nap location.
D. Bring a few things:
—Pillow or folded-up sweater, jacket, etc (to prevent cricked neck)
—Blanket (for chilly locations)
—Coffee! It’s called a “stimulant nap”: if you drink coffee just before you close your eyes, the caffeine won’t kick in until after you’ve napped, and you’ll be zooming along for the rest of the day.
Remember: naps are normal! They’re good for you. They’ll perk you back up … And nobody has to know.