Health Zone: How Productive Is a Power Nap?; an Afternoon Sleep at the Office Could Dramatically Increase Productivity, According to Research by NASA Space Agency. VICKI TAYLOR Finds out If 40-Winks Really Can Improve Performance
Byline: VICKI TAYLOR
Everyone has experienced the post-lunch dip and sleep experts now claim an afternoon nap boosts brain function.
We naturally feel sleepy after lunch, which may be an evolutionary mechanism to avoid the afternoon sun.
Research from Nasa now proves that a 40-minute nap between 3 and 5pm boosts performance by 35 per cent and improves decision making by 50 per cent. The study was designed for astronauts on long missions, but former Nasa scientist Dr Mark Rosekind says strategic napping at work gets the same results.
Some forward-thinking companies already give their staff 'sleep space'. In the US, Nike provides 'relaxation rooms'.
British Airways has also taken the research on board and advises its pilots to nap to boost alertness.
And in Japan it's common for workers to put their heads on their desks and nod off.
So can napping really improve your afternoon performance at work? I went along to the Sleep Research Centre at Surrey University to find out.
Director Neil Stanley tested me at 3.15pm and at 4.15pm after a 40-minute nap in one of the centre's specially-designed sound-proofed bedrooms. The bed was comfy but I found it difficult to get to sleep. I was monitored by cameras and I was conscious about being watched. Eventually I dropped off and 40 minutes later I felt reluctant to leave my bed
I did a test calculated my reaction response time. I had to press a button as soon as I thought four tiny lights completely stopped or started flashing. Neil explained that when we need sleep the brain doesn't process information as quickly, so a tired driver may see a red traffic light but fail to stop.
After my nap my performance was 15 per cent better than before.
Neil says it is difficult to explain why a small sleep recharges our batteries.
"With coffee the effect wears off, but a nap resets the body clock leaving you refreshed and raring to go. …