At Sleeping Duck we're all about getting a good night's sleep. But we know sometimes it's hard to get in your full eight hours every night, leaving you feeling sluggish when afternoon rolls around.
When that happens, most people grab a coffee (or sugar) boost to get through the rest of the day. But research suggests that rather than the coffee pot, we should be reaching for a pillow and blanket instead.
When we were little it was totally natural (and in fact encouraged) to catch a few ZZZs between fingerpainting and Play School.
But sadly, as we get older napping becomes synonymous with being a slacker. When we do nap, it's on those days we have nothing important to do – like summer holidays or retirement.
In reality, this stigma against napping is misplaced. Rather than a special treat to be enjoyed when you have the time, napping is essential to performing at your peak on your busiest of days.
Research shows that a short nap can help improve your cognitive performance, boost memory and make you more productive.
And history is littered with great thinkers who relied on an afternoon nap to help them make important decisions. Winston Churchill famously enjoyed one every afternoon. John F Kennedy napped after lunch. And Edison reportedly could nap anywhere at any time.
According to Fiona Kerr, a neural specialist from the University of Adelaide, a nap helps ensure we can function into the afternoon and beyond.
Kerr compares a nap to ‘clearing your inbox', in that it helps to filter what you've learned throughout the day.
‘If you have regular naps, you will store, retain and recall information faster and more effectively,’ says Kerr, who advocates a 15-30 minute nap for optimal results.
A nap can not only help you consolidate information but also make you more productive when you wake. A 2002 Harvard University study looked at how subjects performed at completing visual tasks over a series of four days and found their performance got worse as time went on.
However, subjects who were allowed a short nap after the second day of tasks halted this deterioration, while subjects who napped on each of the four days actually improved their output.
If you're still tossing up between a coffee and a nap, why not have both?
Multiple studies have found the benefits of an afternoon coffee are magnified when combined with a 20-minute nap.
If you drink a cup of coffee and then immediately lie down for a short nap, you'll feel more alert when you wake compared to having the nap or coffee alone. It all comes down to chemistry and what's happening in your body. When you nap, adenosine – the chemical that causes drowsiness – is being cleared from your system. With less adenosine to compete against, the effect of the caffeine stimulant is heightened.
If you're not lucky enough to have a Sleeping Duck mattress hanging out in your office, there are a few other ways you can get some afternoon shut-eye.
Fifteen to thirty minutes seems to be the agreed optimal nap length for a workday. This lets you get the adenosine-clearing benefits, without heading into deep, REM sleep.
Find somewhere warm and preferably dark and set an alarm on your phone to wake you. If you can close your office door and lie on the floor or a couch, then you're set.
However, if you're in an open-plan office, you might have better luck snoozing in your car or heading out to a local park for a quick kip under a tree (one Sleeping Duck member stored a picnic rug under their desk at a previous job for this express purpose).
The most important thing is to be confident in your napping habits. Once your colleagues and boss see how proficient and productive you are in the afternoons, they'll soon be scheduling nap time for the whole office.