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Nap your way to Happy or Secret Power of Rest

“I’m so busy, I don’t have time to rest!” At one time in my life, this would have been my daily mantra. With deadlines to meet, responsibilities to uphold and a To Do list as long as my arm – the idea of resting felt absurd; a luxury especially reserved to those in retirement.

In truth, I’d learned the habit of measuring my life by accomplishments and acquisitions – how much I could do in a day, and how many ‘things’ I had to show for it. Exhaustion and productivity had become a badge of honour – so much so, that when asked how I was, my immediate response would be “I’m great, I’m really busy!”….like this was something to be proud of; a measure of how my life was sooooooo important.

As a result, I spent months, maybe even years of feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and joyless. And this went on for so long it became normal to me.  Perhaps this all sounds very familiar?

For decades, our culture hasn’t valued either rest or good quality sleep. In fact, we often work in environments where we’re rewarded for NOT resting – rewarded for being the first one in the office and the last to leave, rewarded for skipping lunch and responding to emails at 8pm, or even checking in while we’re on holiday. “She’s such a good team-player!”.

Thankfully we’re waking up to the fact (pun intended!) that this isn’t a good long-term strategy.  There is a ton of research these days about the impact of constantly being on and ploughing through our days. Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep argues a causal link between sleep-deprivation and physical health such as chronic conditions (diabetes, digestive problems, migraines), heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, as well as our mental health including anxiety and depression to name a few.

Along with these health issues, we can often start to feel a dullness or numbness in our lives and in ourselves, and when that happens, consciously or unconsciously we start to think ‘is this all there is? And if so, what’s the point?’

Something as simple as taking regular naps and getting better quality sleep can change the way we feel and improve our health rapidly. A study by the University of Düsseldorf has shown that even very short naps enhance memory processing, while a Nasa study, looking at their effects on pilots on long flights, reported: “Naps can maintain or improve subsequent performance, physiological and subjective alertness, and mood.”

Once we see the value and importance of resting, and can let go of exhaustion as a status symbol, we’re ready to get some serious shut-eye. So how can you harness the power of the restorative nap? Here’s some tips for the perfect snooze.

  1. Create a personal ritual for relaxation, including location and regular time for slowing down into rest.
  2. 10-20mins is ideal to get the benefits of napping, such as improved alertness, enhanced performance, and a better mood.
  3. Find a spot where you can make yourself comfortable at some point during the afternoon – an unused office or meeting room, a quiet corner in the communal kitchen, the sofa in the staff room or even in the park or on a bench, when the weather permit
  4. Use comfort enhancers that might aid you into relaxation, including an eye mask, ear plugs, soft fabrics, meditation music
  5. Let go of trying to fall asleep. What’s important is that we use this period to close our eyes and disconnect from the world for a short while.
  6. Overcome guilt by keeping in mind the benefits – better health, better performance, better energy, better you.
  7. Adopt napping as a lifestyle habit, as familiar and necessary as brushing your teeth.

Like our French neighbours, who enjoy a 35-hour work week, or in Spain, where a siesta is a must, we can come to enjoy, embrace and revel in a little lovely shut-eye.

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