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Sleep At Work
In times of stress, a short fifteen-minute nap can turn out to be more refreshing than a complete eight-hour sleep. The short fifteen-minute nap is termed as power nap as within this time the body revitalizes and is energized to start with work once again.
Next time your boss catches you sleeping on the job, tell him its just what the doctor ordered. And for added effect, ask him whether he has heard of snooze power, or the power nap?

There is no knowing whether this will work to save your job. But there is no doubting that a midday nap works to save your health. Across the world, from respected doctors and scientists and even management gurus, there are increasing numbers of experts now who endorse the benefits of a midday nap. For improving health, productivity and the overall quality of work in the aftermath, at the workplace and the home, the housework arena.

The benefits are easy to see. It is just the same principle as in nighttime sleep. Sleep has a restorative function-repairing body and brain. During sleep, biological processes which degrade while we are awake, are balanced, thus restoring the lost energy.

Body repair
Sleep also gives awake-time neurons a chance to shut down and repair. More sleep means more energy. Lost sleep has severe repercussions on immunity levels and metabolic activity and we all know that long workdays without breaks leave us weary, fatigued, irritable and with difficulty in concentrating. A midday nap is especially beneficial for those recovering from illness or injury, undergoing chemotherapy, etc.

High alert
A brief daytime nap could block or even reverse learning declines that occur during extended practice of a perceptual task. Sleep, researchers say that regardless of how long one sleeps at night, the human body is programmed to become sleepy in early afternoon-even without a big lunch! Ergonomic experts have even written positive papers on post-lunch naps as increasing job alertness.

So, there is no need to feel guilty about a midday nap or look down on those who take one. Unfortunately, many feel that even admitting to this need or to the practice is confessing they are lazy or escapist or not as super-efficient and driven as they want to seem.

But consider this. Japanese firms, whose management practices the world has celebrated, see enough sense in this practice for many now to provide a room for taking a nap. In China, the law actually guarantees a post-lunch snooze. The home of the siesta-Spain-has business centres where for a small fee, workers can relax and have a nap post-lunch.

Sleep with purpose
Some sleep experts make an important distinction-calling this calculated, purposeful nap sleeping at work rather than sleeping on the job which has negative connotations.

In USA, there are companies and websites, which promote the benefits of naps, and offer advice on effective workplace sleep strategies and benefits. America has a large number of Sleep Centres, including at prestigious hospitals, where specialists spend decades researching sleep.

In India, we hardly have any such centres, at most a few sleep labs with-in hospitals and even these are manned mostly by pulmonologists or physicians rather than full-fledged sleep experts.

Dr Shrikant Dattatreya, Mumbai-based physician says: "I would be wary of recommending a midday nap to working persons given this Indian scenario and hence possible repercussions on his job.

"However, I strongly commend its beneficial effects-it is a small practice with big benefits."

Mid-day nap
So, how does one implement this out here? "A self-employed person with a private office or anyone who can manage this facility, can have a couch for that afternoon snooze while also switching off the phone for that period. Those working out of home also could use the midday nap." As could the homemaker. In fact, housewives generally have a 10 or 12 hour workday with two peak times being early to mid-morning and then again from late-afternoon to evening-night. They use the midday nap to re-energize for the second schedule.

However, workplace circumstances and rules mean that most working people fight that midday slump in energy with caffeine, cigarettes or energy drinks. This can be counterproductive, says physician Dr Sukanto Dasgupta, since caffeine/tobacco create a false sense of alertness and efficiency while actually depriving the body and brain of much-needed sleep and not truly rejuvenating them. Too much afternoon caffeine can also result in later lethargy and reduced REM (dream) sleep at night.

Daily dose
The other unhealthy habit, because snoozes arent permitted, is to try and compensate on that one off-day in the week. But you cant build a sleep debt all week and compensate for that deficit in one day. "A brief nap taken daily is far healthier than sleeping in or taking a prolonged nap on the weekend," Dr Dasgupta adds. "It should have the status of physical exercise-it works when done daily and in small doses."

The best time to nap?
Precisely in the middle of the day, about eight hours after you wake up and eight hours before you hit the bed at night.

Dont stretch it
All experts, however, caution against overdoing it. The key to optimum benefit is balance. Sleep-researcher Dr. H.B. Chandrashekar says about 15 minutes to 30 minutes is ideal. "Anything longer than that, in my clinical experience, has a rather opposite and unwelcome effect, making one feel lethargic rather than refreshed." Long naps have a temporary disadvantage: they cause Sleep Inertia, a grogginess and lethargy on awakening that can last for an hour.

So, should all of us be feeling guilty of cheating on our bodily needs if we dont nap? Not really says the doctor, since there are exceptions. "A midday nap is highly useful but not an absolute must," reveals Dr Chandrashekar. "There are a few persons who can get by without this and that is fine." Those who, amazingly, can maintain high-alertness levels through a long day can do without it. Second, the nap-necessity depends on your work schedule. An afternoon nap is ideal for those with a long working day of 12 to 14 hours-beginning as early as 7 or 8 a.m. and stretching into the night, say, 8 or 10 p.m.

"But for those who wind up their workday at 4 or 4.30 p.m. a nap is not a great idea and impractical too for obvious reasons," Dr Chandrashekar adds. Lastly, insomniacs or people with difficulty falling asleep at night can avoid it.

Even if you dont actually fall asleep during your nap, dont worry. For those 15-20 minutes, the sheer shutting out of light and noise, and shutting down of the mind, all relax your system and deliver at least part of the benefits of sleep.
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Posted on : 31/10/2005
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