COVID-19 has changed the world in so many ways, including where we spend our work day. According to researchers at Stanford University, about 42 percent of the labor force is now working from home. Many people who work from home do so in their bedroom, or within sight of their bedroom, from make-shift home offices.
For some, this can lead to temptation - the temptation to nap. It feels so good to slip into bed and feel your muscles unclench over a lunch break! But should you be napping while you work from home? In this article, we'll explore some of the issues that people face when napping at home, during the work day.
Why Do You Feel the Need for a Nap?
Response to Stress
People respond to stress in different ways. Some have racing thoughts, others start to sweat, and some people experience fatigue. Naps taken at times of stress can be clarifying and relaxing, allowing you to develop a different perspective on your troubles.
Poor Sleep Quality at Night
If you're feeling the need for a nap in the middle of the day, you might be sleep deprived. Fatigue, irritability, decreased sex drive and difficulty remembering things are all signs of sleep deprivation. Another sign of sleep deprivation is the easy ability to fall asleep in the middle of the day. If it takes you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep during your nap, you're probably not sleep deprived. If you fall asleep very quickly and consistently every time you nap, this could mean you're not getting enough rest at night.
Some people nap for pure pleasure. If you fall into this category, you probably find yourself looking forward to your nap in the same way that you might look forward to a good television show, your morning latte or a conversation with a good friend. Taking mid-day naps can be motivating for some, giving them something to look forward to during an otherwise stressful time.
Benefits of Napping
A healthy napping routine can improve your mood and give you energy to deal with issues during the workday. Napping can help improve your memory and focus, and can even lead to increased productivity.
Problems Associated With Napping During the Workday
However, napping isn't always healthy. In general, there are two problems that people encounter with regular daily naps. The first problem, sleep inertia, is the grogginess that some people experience when they wake up after a nap. The hour following a nap can be difficult because of sleep inertia.
The second problem is the potential disruption to the sleep cycle. Not all naps prevent people from sleeping well, but they can, depending on how long the nap is, when it happens, and what the napper does with the rest of their day.
In addition to the problems that can occur because of napping generally, napping during the workday is a sticky issue for many professionals for other reasons. Naps can be fun, relaxing, and can relieve stress. They can make the work day go better than they would otherwise. But does that mean you should?
Should You Feel Guilty?
The pandemic has created stress for many people, and as already discussed, naps are a good way to manage and deal with stress. Many people are inclined to feel guilty when napping at home during the work day. It seems wrong to take time for sleep.
In reality, mid-day naps are rejuvenating and clarifying. Napping is a positive experience that can lead to greater productivity and better work quality. Feelings of guilt would be counterproductive, and might curb productivity. Focus on the positive.
What Happens If Your Boss Calls During Your Nap?
Take naps during natural break periods, like your lunch hour. Block off time in your calendar for your nap, just as you would block off time for any lunch hour or break time. You don't have to tell anyone that you're napping: just set boundaries and let coworkers know that you're unavailable during your breaks. If your boss calls, your phone should be on the desk where you left it - not at your bedside.
Are Your Kids Allowed to Nap Too?
Under the right circumstances, napping can be productive and good for you. Allowing your children to nap while you nap simply gives them the same chance to recharge that you're giving to yourself. Worried about setting a precedent that allows your children to ignore school work? Set your naps around your child's schedule. Nap during their breaks, so that you can all nap at the same time.
Nap the Right Way
Napping is an art. Maintaining good napping habits can help you enjoy a good nap without disrupting your sleep cycle at night.
Know Why You're Napping
As already mentioned, you might be napping because you're sleep deprived. If that's the case, examine your sleep habits and ensure that you're getting a good night's rest. If you need more sleep at night, changing your sleep habits and sleep environment may help.
Make Your Nap Short
Aim to take naps that are no longer than 20 minutes. The longer the nap, the harder it will be to fall asleep and stay asleep when night comes.
Avoid Napping In the Late Afternoon
Napping after 3 pm can disrupt your sleep cycles. If you're going to nap, do it in the late morning or early afternoon. If you're tired after 3 pm, try exercising instead. Exercising can increase your heart rate and alertness at the same time.
Establish Healthy Sleep Patterns While Working From Home
The pandemic has disrupted many people's sleep patterns. Establishing healthy sleep patterns while working from home can help reduce your need or desire to take a nap, which ultimately could help you sleep better at night.
Limit Coffee Intake
For many, coffee is one of the simple pleasures that hasn't been taken away by the presence of COVID-19. You can have your coffee all day long if you'd like, but switch to decaf in the middle afternoon, or earlier if need be. Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 4 cups of coffee per person per day.
Establish Normal Wake and Sleep Times
Go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time in the mornings. If you're a notorious insomniac, do this even on weekends. This helps your body know when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake, so that eventually you can fall asleep more easily.
Establish a Good Environment for Sleeping
The environment where you sleep makes all the difference. Disruptions can leave you tossing, turning and unable to get a good night's rest. If you’re finding sleep challenging, try the following.
- Use blackout curtains: Install blackout curtains in your bedroom to keep your room totally dark while you're sleeping.
- Cut out noises: Wear ear plugs to bed or put on some white noise to drown out loud noises in the environment.
- Keep the room cool: The best temperature for sleeping is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, so control the temperature of the room where you sleep.
- Try a mattress topper: Consumer Reports tells us that most mattresses last between 5 and 7 years. Waking up sore after sleeping on an uneven mattress surface with lumps, frayed edges or reduced support, are all signs that your mattress needs to be replaced. If you’re not ready to replace your mattress, a new mattress topper can work wonders to improve your comfort during sleep, restoring the firmness or the slack that your mattress may have lost.
Once you've improved your quality of sleep, you may find you still like napping. After all, it's relaxing, restorative and fun! Enjoy your naps as long as you can, and do so without disturbing your normal sleep cycles.