When you’ve got a lot on your plate, chances are the first thing to suffer is your sleep cycle. But while cutting corners on the prescribed 6 to 8 hour nightly sleep recommendation may seem like a good way to put some extra working hours into your day, getting too little sleep might actually be making you a lot less productive, and creative, than you’d like to think.
How Sleep Affects Your Performance
This is because sleep factors into your performance while you’re awake in a number of ways, with the first being its effect on your memory. A 2010 study conducted by Harvard University found that sleep – even in the form of a midday nap – not only improves memory, but actually facilitates the reactivation and reordering of memories while dreaming. This translates to a kind of subconscious process of problem solving, whereby your mind actually works, while you’re sleeping, to find answers to puzzles that you may have encountered before going to bed or taking a nap. This means that when you wake up, there’s a better chance that you’ll be able to approach a familiar problem with a totally fresh perspective.
The Proven Effectiveness of Napping
And even if it’s not exactly practical for you to take an hour long nap in the middle of your day – we can’t all have a Google or Ben & Jerry’s-esque workplace napping policy – just a few minutes of shut eye could be enough to get your brain juices flowing. According to a Germany study from the University of Duesseldorf, even a nap as short as six minutes could sharpen your mind and help you remember information more successfully (the participants in the study who took a power nap proved more successful at remembering a list of 30 names than those who didn’t).
The longer you do sleep, though, the more your mind begins to tap into the second biggest benefit of sleep on how productive you are: creativity. A 2009 study from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that when people sleep or nap long enough to enter deep REM sleep, their creativity heightens as a result. This extends to creativity in the problem-solving sense (participants in the study were found to be more innovative in how they connected unrelated ideas when solving problems) and in the artistic sense (Salvador Dali was a proponent of power naps to stir inspiration, though he had a very distinct system).
Always Choose Sleep
So what this all boils down to is that when you find yourself nodding off in the middle of trying (and failing) to get some work done, you’re probably better off giving into the urge than fighting it. On the other hand, if you have trouble sleeping, try reBloom – an all natural sleep drink that eases you into a sound sleep without the morning grogginess from other sleep aids.