Power Napping for Overworked People

      February 22, 2007 09:20

      Jeon Ji-young works for a trading company. Since she needs to contact clients overseas, she often stays at the office until almost midnight, sending e-mails or talking on the phone. Even if she finishes early once in a while and goes home, she finds it difficult to go to bed early, because it makes her feel she is wasting her time. So instead she meets friends, perhaps in one of the many coffee shops that stay open until 11:00 p.m.

      When she gets home, she watches Korean shows online or slips a DVD of a U.S. soap, of which she has many, into the player. "I sleep on average five hours a night. It makes me feel tired all week, but getting more sleep makes me feel I'm falling behind," Jeon says.

      Sleep is increasingly becoming a luxury for hard-pressed office workers. Some people suffer from lack of sleep due to long working hours, others stay up into the small hours watching DVDs or playing games. It's as if all technological advances conspired to prevent people from going to bed.

      Dr. Han Jin-kyu, who runs the Seoul Sleep Center, quotes a survey which found that office workers over 20 in Seoul and the metropolitan area sleep on average six hours and 28 minutes a day, and half of them go to bed after midnight.

      The solution, at least in the short term, is "power naps." Coined by James Maas, a psychology professor at Cornell University, the term essentially means short cat naps that apparently reinvigorate the brain and increase work efficiency and performance. The Chosun Ilbo has a short guide to power napping.

      1. Even dozing off for a few minutes in a subway can be invigorating. Experts advise a power nap should not exceed 20 minutes because it is important for the body not to go into deep sleep mode.

      2. The best time for a power nap is between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Taking a nap later can make it difficult to go to sleep at night. Experienced power nappers often go to sleep when they have difficulties with work or have too many things to think about, or just before a meeting. Getting a 15-minute nap at around 1:00 in the afternoon will not interfere with going to sleep at 10:00 at night.

      3. If you can't lie down at work, the best position is to straighten the waist and lean firmly against the back of a chair or lean the head against a chair. Bruno Comby, the French author of "La Virtudes de La Siesta (The Virtues of the Siesta)," recommends a "horseman posture": lowering the waist a little bit and leaning the upper body and head forward, then spreading the legs apart and putting the hands on the knees or thighs. There is no need to complain about having to sleep sitting up. In fact, it is better for short naps and prevents you from falling into deep sleep.

      4. Loosen neckties or unbutton a few buttons of dress shirts when taking a nap. It is important to relax muscles and breathe deeply.

      5. Refrain from taking in too much caffeine and drinking. A cup of coffee between 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning won't affect a power nap at 1:00 a.m.

      6. Use sleep shades if you can't turn off the lights to create a best environment to sleep. And don't forget to turn off your cell phone.

      7. Don't jump out of your chair when you wake up. Take a minute to practice mind control. Smile at yourself and keep repeating that life is beautiful and you are happy. There is no need to feel guilty about taking a nap. Do some stretches and take a deep breath before coming down to earth.

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