Why Genius Demands Down Time

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Christina Dunham | The Sociaholic - Cat Nap

One of my favorite all-time activities – then and now – is taking a nap.

While many believe that sitting still is a luxury very few can afford, it’s exactly the kind of thing that everyone should indulge in. We live in a sleep deprived nation of over-achievers and workaholics consumed with climbing the top of Mt. Never Rest. We brag about lack of sleep and complain of long days, not realizing the stopping for a moment is exactly what’s going to help us with progressing forward.

Does genius demand down time? Inventor Thomas Alva Edison certainly thought so. He is reputed to take several cat naps during the day to help fuel his creativity. As Donald Mitchell, author of Adventures of an Optimist puts it, “lounging can be a purposeless way of being more purposeful by letting your unconscious mind come out.”

Need more convincing? Other famed practitioners of cat napping include Albert Einstein, John D. Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Ronald Regan. Besides its recuperative benefits, studies have shown that napping helps improve long-term memory, boosts alertness and creativity, and enhances productivity for up to 10 hours. Even our Pinoy predecessors knew the value of taking a siesta.

What’s the optimal interval for a power nap? It seems 20 to 45 minutes does the trick, when the body can benefit from the first two stages of sleep. A complete sleep cycle takes about 90-110 minutes and comprises of following stages:

Stage 1:  Falling asleep, or hypnagogia, the transition state between wakefulness and sleep

Stage 2:  Light sleep, when brain activity and heart rate slows down (about 10-20 minutes after falling asleep)

Stage 3:  Slow-wave sleep (occurs about half-way into the sleep-cycle). The feeling of grogginess and confusion occurs if woken up during this stage.

Stage 4:  Deep sleep (the regeneration stage)

Stage 5:  REM-sleep (the dream stage)

To avoid crossing over into Stage 3 sleep, Thomas Edison would hang on to a handful of ball-bearings, which dropped to the floor as he fully relaxed, thus waking him up. Other inventors have followed suit, releasing a suite of products specifically designed for power nappers. For example, there is the Sleeptracker Pro, worn like a watch, which monitors signals from your body and wakes you up at the best possible point in your sleep cycle. Then there’s the MetroNap EnergyPod, provided to employees by companies like Proctor&Gamble, a dentist-chair like lounger with a half-dome that envelopes your upper body, and a built-in timer to wake you up via a combination of light and vibration.

As Carrie Snow tells us, “No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”  Next time you find yourself sluggish in the middle of a work-day, retreat to your desk, put up a “do not disturb” sign, and take a cue from Kindergarteners… take a nap.

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