Why The Perfect Nap Makes For The Perfect Workday

It could be for 20 minutes, 60 minutes, or even 90 minutes: a bespoke nap creates a tailored workday.

Why The Perfect Nap Makes For The Perfect Workday

If you happen upon the offices of Buffer in San Francisco on a given afternoon looking for Leo Widrich, you’d better choose a time other than 3 p.m. Why? Because the cofounder and CMO is probably going to be napping, as he’s done every day for two years.


That’s because Widrich, himself a student of productivity, found that the mid-afternoon was the worst part of his workday. The post-lunch dip got him bad: He would get super tired and find that he detested whatever he was working on, regardless of what it was.

“We trained ourselves to this idea of pushing through, grabbing a coffee, and somehow with force making it work,” he tells Fast Company. “That didn’t make sense to me, so instead, I tried letting go. I tried some reading at that time, but I was too tired to even read, so I decided I would just sleep.”

With great success: Now he feels as though he has a second workday, with his late afternoons having the same freshness as the morning.

That’s a conscientious approach to the riddle of nap, one that, the Wall Streeet Journal reports, is more nuanced than you may be awake to.

Picking the right nap

Since our sleep runs in patterns–like our waking life–we need to calibrate our naps to our sleeping rhythms and the broader context of the workday. Here’s what nap suits which sitution:

The 10- to 20-minute power nap: refreshes and you can get back to work with minimal grogginess.


The 60-minute nap: helps you into slow-wave sleep, which the Journal reports helps you remember facts. But you’ll be in a slight stupor when you wake.

The 90-minute nap: gives you a full cycle of sleep, which boosts your creativity.

But be sure to make that nap happen between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.–otherwise it could mess with your sleep cycle.

Getting buy-in

Taking a nap at work may make people think that you’re sleeping on the job. This is understandable, since you are.

But as Widrich notes, it’s about the productivity you gain in the post-nap situation rather than the 20-minutes of staring at your inbox you lose by crashing for a minute. But like any behavioral change, you’re going to need to talk to your colleagues and make sure they don’t think you’re a nut job or a slacker for putting a pause in your workday. Which is a problem of productivity, education, and communication.

Hat tip: the Wall Street Journal


[Image: Flickr user Robert S. Donovan]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.