The amazing 26-minute NASA power nap

August 23, 2011 · 7 comments

Last spring, I read a short article in Time magazine about how the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had suggested that air traffic controllers be allowed to take short naps during their workday in order to remain more alert while on the job.

The NTSB based its recommendation on a 1995 NASA study that found a “26-minute nap improved performance 34% and alertness 54%.” I found this article very interesting because over the last few months I’ve been dealing with some personal sleep deprivation issues. My company is very close to launching a new collection of websites for the printing industry, and I have been heavily involved in the development process since January 1st. Since then, I have worked 80 hours or more most weeks, and I sometimes feel very tired. The thought of taking a short, 26-minute nap that would improve my performance and alertness was very appealing to me.

But there was just one problem: I’ve never been able to take naps successfully. On the one hand, when I tried to take a nap in the past, I would usually wake up an hour or two later and feel so groggy that it would take me hours to recover. On the other hand, I’d often find myself feeling guilty just thinking about taking a nap because in my mind naps were something for slackers, senior citizens, or little kids. Real men don’t take naps.

However, the information I learned about the 26-minute NASA power nap was very convincing, and it’s hard to argue with findings presented by such an esteemed group of scientists. So I decided to give it a try.

I have to admit I felt a little silly closing my office door and laying down on the tiny little two-person couch in the corner. I programmed a little hand-held digital timer for exactly 26 minutes, put my phone on “do not disturb,” closed the blinds (and my eyes), and fell asleep almost immediately. The next thing I remember was that little digital timer beeping on my desk. It went by so fast I could hardly believe that 26 minutes had transpired. But the good news was that I woke up feeling fresh and wide awake. I did not feel feel groggy or sluggish. In fact, I did feel more alert and energetic over the next few hours.

It inspired me to try napping again the next time I found myself feeling a little tired while sitting at my desk.

Well, to make a long story short, over the last 4 or 5 weeks, I have taken numerous 26-minute naps. Never a minute more or a minute less. Guess what? It works. Almost every time I’ve taken a nap, I find myself noticeably more attentive and creative afterward. Because I was always such an anti-nap person, I still find it hard to believe I’m doing it. Today, I’m suggesting you try it the next time you find yourself feeling a little sleepy or de-energized during your workday.

As printers, we often find ourselves dealing with sleep deprivation because of the long hours of work we put in to hit deadlines for our customers. Perhaps you’ll find, like I did, that a 26-minute nap is not only good for astronauts… it’s good for printers, too!

Here’s a link to the online version of the Time magazine article I mentioned earlier:
Air Traffic Controllers: Let Them Nap

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Prince October 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Great article. The NASA study was a key piece in the development of Speed Sleep back in 2004. It takes you down to the deepest levels of sleep and brings you back up in 26 minutes.

Biff Smith August 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Though I do not take daily naps, (I’m not THAT old, yet), I too have a comfy sofa in my office and have used it for this very purpose. It’s what I call my “power” nap.

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