On week days I have to get up at 5:30am. This means I should really go to bed at about 9:30. That's a hard habit to get into. Then Friday and Saturday nights come and I get to bed at 1:00am. Then Sunday night returns and I make the 9:30am attempt. By this point I'm quite used to going to bed late, not early. This makes it hard to get to sleep on Sunday night, and twice as hard to get up Monday morning. This makes for a very tired me on Monday.
So, I find myself sitting at my desk fighting off sleep. I have four options:
- Continue sitting here trying, in a futile attempt, to stay awake. In reality my productivity will be near zero until at least after lunch. However, it will most likely get worse after lunch.
- Take a quick power-nap at my desk. This has two possible outcomes:
- I get caught which probably gets me in trouble. In a lot of places, one would get fired for that.
- I don't get caught. After about 20 or 30 minutes I wake up rested and refreshed. I have high productivity for the rest of the day.
- Go for another break to get some caffeine. I went for one break already to get a begal and a cup of tea. The tea isn't doing much to wake me up. I need something with more kick, like Coffee. (Please, no comments about how tea has more caffeine than coffee does. It's more complicated than that.) Of course, this comes with a risk of catching wind for taking too many breaks.
- Blog about it.
Obviously, I chose option 4. Although once I'm done the blog I'll be left with the three other choices.
The best option is really number 2. But the problem with that is the lack of understanding about sleep and how it works. Most people know as much about sleep as they do about nuclear chemistry. I have studied both at the university level and have concluded that sleep, or chronopsychology, is much much much much easier to learn about and understand than nuclear chemistry. Most of us sleep at least once every day, yet most people know very little about it.
For example, did you know that 30 minutes of sleep is not only quantitatively different, but also qualitatively different than 90 minutes of sleep? 3 thirty minute naps is not the same as 1 ninety minute nap.
Sleep happens in cycles of 90 minutes. There are a total of five stages of sleep in a cycle. They are called Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4 and REM sleep. Each stage is different from the others.
With 20 minute power-naps you can get into stages 1 and 2 sleep. That's good enough to give a bit of an energy boost, shave off a bit of fatigue, and feel a bit more refreshed and/or motivated. But you can't survive on it. You need stages 4 and REM to be fully rested.
With each cycle throughout the night you get different amounts of each stage. Your first two REM cycles are relatively short. Then they get longer, and your stages 3 and 4 get shorter.
How much sleep you need depends on a lot of factors including, but not limited to age, diet, physical health, hormone levels, amount of bright light and when you see that bright light.
It's also perfectly natural to take a short nap in the early afternoon.
This is just one of the many things every one should know, but few do. Anyway, I encourage you to visit The Sleep Foundation and learn a bit about sleep, and the circadian rhythm. It's a well done site with lots of information presented in an interesting and captivating way. (As long as you have Flash.)
As far as my dilemma, my employer is somewhat relaxed about these things. A second coffee break in the morning certainly wouldn't be a problem. Furthermore, I tend to stay for an extra hour and 15 minutes every day, and I'm usually caught up with my work. If productivity became a problem then I'd certainly have to look at my schedule, and daily practices, but at this point it's working. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Here's another site with some information on sleep.
UPDATE: Apparently, the French Minister of Health wants to launch a study into the benefits of napping at work. Finally! Someone with the right idea!