March 11, 2013

On Napping Day, be bold, catch some Zzzs

Yawn! If you’re feeling sluggish after resetting your clock for Daylight Saving Time, don’t restrain yourself: It’s Napping Day.

Jim Angleton’s work day begins before dawn, so when his eyes get droopy by mid-afternoon, he just leans back at his desk and grabs a snooze.

“If I feel tired, my body is trying to tell me something, so I will excuse myself, shut the door, sometimes put headphones on and listen to music, and just put my head back and disconnect,” said Angleton, 56, who owns a Miami Lakes financial services company.

Are you yawning yet?

Go for it: Monday is Napping Day, an unofficial holiday created in 1999 by now-retired Boston University professor William Anthony and his wife, Camille, to help people adjust to Daylight Saving Time.

After losing an hour of sleep by springing clocks forward, many in the workforce will drag through the day on Monday, hence the need for a power nap.

“You get refreshed, you get re-energized and you get de-stressed,” Angleton said. “I highly recommend it if you can get away with it. It’s got to be good for the soul.”

Without a doubt, everyone needs to sleep. Newborns require as much as 18 hours a day; adults, as a general rule, seven to nine hours, the National Sleep Foundation says.

“Sleep is essential for your overall wellbeing, quality of life, for your mood, for your growth, and also for the prevention of diseases, because the lack of sleep can trigger inflammatory response in your body and can make you more susceptible to infection,” said Dr. Alexandre Abreu, co-director of the UHealth Sleep Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Naps can help, as long as they do not interfere with your nighttime sleep — creating a vicious cycle, he said.

In fact, one-third of adults take regular naps, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center. And more men (38 percent) reported catching a few ZZZs, than women (31 percent).

The habit may start at an early age: Preschoolers are accustomed to grabbing their blankets and heading to slumberland. It’s also a cultural phenomenon. In many European and Latin American cultures, a siesta after lunch is still an important part of the daily work schedule.

While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes can help improve mood, alertness and performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Depending on your job, it may even be critical. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness by 100 percent.

And another study, printed in the October 2012 issue of Academic Medicine, found that among first-year internal medicine residents, a short midday nap improved alertness and cognitive functioning.

Yet, by and large, U.S. employers frown upon workers who try to sneak in some shut-eye.

Not C1 Bank’s chief executive, Trevor Burgess. As a napping proponent, he encourages dozing on the job.

In fact, at least once a week, he and about a dozen drowsy employees, or nearly 15 percent of his staff of 85, take turns resting in a special “EnergyPod” that he bought in October for his bank’s new St. Petersburg headquarters.

“Even if you don’t fall asleep — in the 20 minutes, the meditation that takes place is pretty powerful, and you’re ready to face whatever your day holds,” said Burgess, whose bank opened a loan production office near Brickell in January (sans EnergyPod) and plans to open its first Miami branch in Midtown this summer.

He sees offering a napping option as an important part of the overall work-life-balance, especially for members of the millennial generation who want to work when and where they want.

“It’s definitely the most talked about element in the space,” said Burgess of the pod, which was created by MetroNaps of New York.

Designed to engulf the napper, the pod reclines and has a timer that awakens you with a combination of lights, vibration and music, and automatically puts you back in a seated position, said MetroNaps Chief Executive Christopher Lindholst. In Florida, St. Leo University and Florida Hospital Celebration Health have also bought the pods, which range in price from $8,995 to $12,985, Lindholst said.

MetroNaps, which has sold its EnergyPods in 20 countries, actually started out 10 years ago, opening “napping facilities,” storefronts in New York and Vancouver where busy executives would pay to take a catnap. But when the economy went to sleep, so did that idea.

“Companies have done a lot for nutrition and fitness over the years, but sleep is really the third pillar of our physical health, and few companies, until recently, have been doing anything about sleep habits,” said Lindholst, who encourages his own employees to nap.

Naps are not right for everyone. Nap for too long, and you might be groggy instead of refreshed. Daytime sleeping could lead to insomnia. And if you already have trouble sleeping at night, a nap may only exacerbate the problem, said Abreu, the UM sleep doctor.

In fact, the need for a nap may be a sign of a disorder, like disruptive sleep apnea or narcolepsy, he said.

“Take naps because it’s cultural, as long as it doesn’t interrupt nighttime sleep, or because you have poor sleep and need to perform at driving or work, so you’re protecting yourself and others from your sleepiness,” he advises.

As the workday drags on, some people simply yearn to doze.

Dorien Rowe, 24, used to take a nap when he came home in the afternoon from his part-time job at a museum.

But since he began working fulltime in May at a Brickell Avenue economic consulting firm, he has to fend off post-lunch fatigue with a Coke or a snack.

“I wish I could take a power nap for 15 minutes,” Rowe said, wistfully. “I work in a small office — there are only three of us — and once I sat in my chair with my eyes closed for 10 minutes. One time I pulled it off. But most of the time I try to fight it.”

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