Overcoming tiredness at work astronaut style

Trying to work when you’re tired is like wading through mud… uphill. It’s little wonder studies show we work less efficiently in this foggy brain state. We’re less able to concentrate, less likely to remember things, more prone to accidents, more likely to snap at others and more likely to scoff down ridiculous quantities of sugar and caffeine.

Pushing through tiredness causes a drop in in the efficiency of our immune systems and an increase in feelings of depression and anxiety – both precursors to exhaustion, burnout, more illness, and more tiredness.

Can we nap tiredness in the bud?

study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found a 40-minute nap improved their performance by 34% and their alertness by 100%.

But it’s not just astronauts who benefit from naps, and nor do they need to last for 40 minutes.

History is filled with countless famous nappers whose preferred nap durations ranged from just a few minutes to a few hours. These include: Winston Churchill, Napolean Bonaparte, Lyndon B Johnson, John F Kennedy, Stonewall Jackson, Thomas Edison, and Charles Darwin. And that’s not to mention a huge number of world class athletes and high performers in other fields.

Not a napper?

Even if you are not keen on napping it’s important to consider the many benefits of simply laying down for four or five minutes, taking deep, slow breaths and relaxing your muscles. It’s one of the best and fastest ways to nurture your nervous system and give your brain some recovery time, without needing to fall asleep. You may not feel as if you need this recuperation time, but even the best of us suffer from the ill-effects of work fatigue. It takes so little time that it may be worth trying anyway, and you can even check out biofeedback apps and programmes such as HRV4 Training to track the physiological changes.

For added nurturing place your legs up on a chair (as shown in the picture), with the chair pulled in close to your bottom and let your back just ‘melt’ into the floor. You can use a pillow under your head for comfort, or better yet forgo this to let you head rest flat on the floor. And if this position just feels awkward, feel free to change it up; you can customise your nap to suit you.

Setting up a snoozy space at your place

You can help your team feel more okay with taking a nap or just laying down for a few minutes by dedicating a space for it. Put up an encouraging sign, toss in a blanket, some cushions, a heap of ear plugs and an alarm clock. Alternatively, check out napping pods, desks with beds and massage chairs.

Create rules if need be. For example: no longer than 20 minutes, no using the area as a replacement for going home if you’re sick, and no bragging about the awesome nap you just had.

Overcoming nap guilt

One of the main reasons why people don’t use napping spaces is due to feelings of guilt or laziness. To avoid this happening at your workplace, try these three tactics:

  1. Remind everyone of all those famous, clever people who nap and the crazy places they would nap – which was often anywhere they could. Businesses like Google and Uber have provided napping spaces in their offices and rumour has it that on any given day, 1/3 of Americans will have a nap.
  2. Share a list of reasons as to why people experience tiredness and/or the benefits of napping. People experience lack of sleep for a whole raft of reasons, and even with a good quantity of sleep behind them, they can still experience tiredness or brain fog during the day. Sharing the reasons for these things can go a long way to helping nappers overcome feelings of laziness or guilt. Ask staff to contribute to this list of reasons anonymously – which may reveal some real heart wrenching insights – and share with all staff.
  3. Avoid using a booking sheet, especially where people’s real names are recorded. Your staff will feel much more comfortable with using the space if they know their use of it is not being monitored.

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