The alarm chimes at 5 am so you can be on the road by 6. It would have been easier to make the drive last night for the 9 am meeting at the new satellite office but that would have meant skipping book club. Skipping one of the few activities where you get to talk about something other than work was NOT going to happen. You’re willing to trade 90 minutes of sleep to discuss who you think should play Cormoran Strike in the movie version of Career of Evil. As you turn on Morning Edition for the drive, you let out a little yawn and wish that you’d come home just a tiny bit earlier to catch just a little extra sleep.

You keep yourself alert during the meeting by mentally reviewing your to-do list. You need to grab lunch and find a spare office to join a conference call. Plus you want to hit a tea shop you heard about from a co-worker before you start the journey home. If you time it right, you can miss rush hour traffic and make it home in time to watch an episode of House of Cards (got to finish season 3!) while you walk on the treadmill. Then there will some time to color, prep some lunch for tomorrow and hopefully be in bed by 11 pm.

It’s the perfect plan till your eyes start to get a little heavy on the drive home. Grateful for the cup of Sencha you got to go, you turn up Elle King and sing along to wake yourself up. You make it safely home but all you want to do is go to bed. You skip coloring, throw a GoPicnic in your bag for tomorrow but still don’t make it to bed until around 10:45 pm. You tell yourself you’ll try again tomorrow before you remember you have a Junior League committee meeting tomorrow night. No rest for the weary, you think as you drift off to sleep.

Sound a little familiar?

A good life is a full life. At times, we may sacrifice sleep to pack in all the things that give us purpose, joy and (hopefully) a paycheck. At some point, however, we have to snap back and repay our sleep debt. You can do it by skipping a morning workout (which I don’t really recommend) or watching only one episode of House of Cards (which is really hard to do). I have a better plan. You need to take daily recovery naps.

Articles on sleep often recommend 7-9 hours of uninterrupted quality sleep a night. I LIKE 7-8 hours for myself and for my clients. I also know what reality is for most of us. We have busy lives that may require long hours, split shifts or unusual schedules. My own average Tuesday starts around 4:45 am and my not end until I start winding down around 9 pm.

The National Sleep Foundation says adults ages 26-64 generally do need 7-9 hours of sleep but they allow for some flexibility on how it happens. According to a Pew Research Center study 31% of women get the sleep they need by napping regularly.

I’ve been noticing my own sleep debt growing a bit lately. I’ve been getting up earlier to get projects done before the rest of the world gets humming and I’ve noticed being less energetic some evenings. That’s not fair to my clients, my husband or MYSELF. As I felt myself getting sleepier and sleepier (with two more appointments to go) one Wednesday afternoon I made a make shift bed out of yoga blankets in the private training room. I put on a sleep mask (accidentally left in my gym bag from a previous weekend getaway) and set my alarm for 25 minutes.

25 minutes of dark and quiet made me feel like a new woman.

It wasn’t a deep sleep, more of a calm drifting. Yet I felt refreshed and ready to resume my regular Wednesday activities. I didn’t mean for it to become a routine but the next day, at home, I thought why not? After another 25 minutes of light sleep I felt renewed and more focused before I left for my evening training appointments. It was a light bulb moment.

Napping doesn’t make you a slacker. Repay your sleep debt and you will feel more productive, energetic and focused.

I am just a sample of one. However, science is on my side. Here are some facts from the National Sleep Foundation.

  • NASA found that a 40-minute nap for sleepy military pilots improved alertness 100% and performance 34%. While we may not be flying fighter jets, who couldn’t use a little extra boost?
  • The Sleep Medicine and Research Center found naps to be extremely helpful in boosting the alertness of shift workers. (You know those nurses working the overnight shift or your barista opening the coffee shop at 5 am.)
  • Naps can have huge psychological benefits, feeling like a mini vacation during the day. Most of use can’t get away every weekend but what if we can get a way for a few minutes every day?

Worried about feeling more tired and unable to sleep later? I’m not talking a “coma” state nap that lasts two hours. I found an app called Power Nap that helps make sure I DON’T fall into a deep sleep, giving me the perfect recovery nap. The recovery nap setting lets you sleep for up to 45 minutes but based on body movement wakes you at the perfect time in the sleep cycle – before you hit deep sleep. If you do want to longer nap there is a setting to wake you after one full sleep cycle, which is about 90 minutes. Or if you have less time choose power nap for 20 minutes or less.

It’s only been three weeks but this is a healthy habit I am finding pretty easy to make. I find I don’t need it every day but there I days I am making sure to carve out 20-40 minutes for a recovery nap. If your energy is waning midday today don’t reach for another cup of Sencha. Try napping for yourself! Find a quite corner and re energize so you can be your wonderful charming self at book club tonight.

Are you a napper? How many minutes do you set aside to recharge and recover?

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