How to Sleep Your Way to the Top – Literally

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Can sleeping on the job really help you do better at your job? NASA says yes.

Apparently, 40-minute naps “improved subsequent alertness and performance” of flight crews on long rotations. Or so says an article from Harvard Health Publications, quoting studies by NASA and the FAA.

Napping for even half that time can “improve alertness, psychomotor performance and mood.”

You need a nap. We all need naps. If I could distill the essence of sleep and sell it in pill form, I’d call the product a “napsule.” And I’d be rich, because we Americans are a drowsy bunch. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 36 percent of respondents have “nodded off or fallen asleep” while driving.

Giving up my car and taking the bus is sounding better all the time. That is, assuming the bus drivers get enough shuteye.

The art of the power nap

Perhaps a daytime snooze would work. A few times a week, set your cell phone alarm for 20 or 30 minutes and then curl up in a break-room chair. Allow 10 or 15 minutes to eat your brown-bag lunch afterwards and scamper back to work all renewed-like.

If your workplace clears out during the noon hour, you could put your head down on your desk, just like in kindergarten. If you’re lucky enough to have an office to yourself, make a “do not disturb” sign and lock the door. Forward your phone too.

Hey, I know a guy who sometimes goes out for a short snooze in his car. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The power of a power nap

A too-long nap might keep you up at night, so be sure to set that alarm. When it goes off, get up even if you don’t want to get up. You may feel groggy but the nap will sink in once you’re up and moving.

Don’t leap right into anything that requires concentration, though. Have a drink of water and spend about 10 minutes doing something that’s not too demanding.

Hold off on peeling potatoes or making stock-market picks until you’re sure you’re completely awake. You don’t want to lose a fingertip, or your shirt, due to residual drowsiness.

Miss some Z’s, lose some $$

What’s this got to do with frugality? Plenty.

If you were one of the 36 percent who nod off at the wheel, you’re looking at medical co-pays – that is, if you’re lucky enough to have insurance. A lack of coverage can land you deep in the hole.

There’s also the matter of fixing your crumpled car, and maybe the other guy’s whiplash. (Imagine the guilt if you caused a serious injury to another person.) And suppose that the injury knocks you out of the workforce for a while – how long could you go without a paycheck?

Exhaustion can cost you in other ways too. How often do you get home from work so flattened that you don’t have the energy to cook even a simple meal? Takeout or deliveries are real budget-busters. Eating cereal from the box or Spam from the can is not good, either (see “medical co-pays,” above).

Tired people are less likely to exercise, which leads to more health issues. They’re also less likely to socialize, and isolated people don’t always have the healthiest habits. (Doritos in front of the tube, anyone?) Or maybe chronic weariness makes you snap at your partner or your children.

Exhaustion can lead both to increased expenditures and decreased quality of life. A good night’s sleep is the best defense. For some people, however, it’s simply not a consistent option. That’s not ideal but it’s their reality. Strategic naps might be the answer until their situations improve.

As for those who actually believe you can get by on four or five hours of sleep: I hope none of you are bus drivers.

More stories from Donna Freedman:

Stacy Johnson

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