#011: The Secret Power of Naps [Podcast]

In this podcast episode, I talk about—of all things—naps! Yes, that’s right. I explain why you should consider them as part of your journey to greater productivity.

When I blogged about this topic recently, I got 1,780 comments on my blog, 1,602 retweets on Twitter, and 13,666 Facebook shares. Obviously, this topic hit a nerve—or maybe people are just tired.

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Episode Outline

I am a habitual nap-taker. I used to feel guilty about this until I discovered that my boss, Sam Moore, who was then the CEO of Thomas Nelson, took naps.

I also discovered that many other successful people took naps, including Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gene Autry, John F. Kennedy, John D. Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.

I believe you should consider taking a nap every day for the following reasons:

  1. A nap restores alertness.
  2. A nap prevents burnout.
  3. A nap heightens sensory perception.
  4. A nap reduces the risk of heart disease.
  5. A nap makes you more productive.

I typically take a 20-minute nap right after lunch. If I can’t do it then, I try to squeeze it in before 4:00 p.m. Here are a few practices I have found helpful.

  1. Be consistent.
  2. Turn off the lights.
  3. Use a blanket.
  4. Keep it short.
  5. Be discreet.

Finally, shift your own thinking about naps. People who take them are not lazy. They might just be the smartest, most productive people you know.

Listener Questions

  1. Question #1: Art Carden asked, “How do you fall asleep quickly, and how do you get up after 15–20 minutes?”
  2. Question #2: Jackie asked, “Does our need for naps have to do with our national addiction to coffee?”
  3. Question #3: Mary DeMuth asked, “Should insomniacs avoid naps since they can disrupt normal sleep?”
  4. Question #4: Stu Gray asked, “Is there an ideal time or length for a nap that helps avoid grogginess.”

Next week, I will be talking about “The Five Marks of Authentic Leadership.” If you have a question about that topic, please leave me a voice mail. I’d love to hear from you.

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  3. Gail and I spent most of last week at the SCORRE Conference in Rome Georgia. This is an event that I co-own with my friend Ken Davis. SCORRE is an acronym we use to for teaching a system of speech preparation designed to deliver your message with clarity and power.

    We will be offering the next SCORRE Conference in Vail, Colorado on October 17–20, 2012. The last one sold out in a week, once we started promoting it. I’m giving you a head start. If you have ever wanted to come to SCORRE, or ever thought about becoming a professional speaker, or just want to communicate more professionally, this is your chance to grab a ticket before we open the flood-gates top the public.

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Show Transcript

You can download a transcript of this episode here.

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Questions: Are you a napper? Why or why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Except for the rare Sunday afternoon nap, I am not a napper.  I love this idea, but I still haven’t figured out how it works for me with my schedule and requirements to be awake throughout the working day.  I’m looking forward to listening to the podcast to see if I can get some more ideas on the subject.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      It’s tough for me as well. My day is split up by picking up and dropping off kids of various ages. In the meantime, I’m trying to schedule a 30 minute break each day, time away from the computer, either sitting in the sun outside, reading a non-work-related book, listening to music with my eyes closed, etc. Something to give my mind a breather.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Nappers might just be the smartest, most productive people you know. Or they may be suffering from hidden food allergies that make them drowsy after meals. 

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I’ll take a nap ever so often on my lunch breaks at work. Gives me that little pep to finish the day well. 

  • http://www.junesjournal.com/ June

    Business News Daily agrees with you.  In their article, “8 Ways Your Job May be Killing You,” they write:

    The afternoon napKeeping employees from taking a regular afternoon nap, as most jobs do, could cause heart problems.A study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that half-hour siestas boost heart healthand help prevent deadly cardiovascular disease.According to the research, working men showed the greatest benefits from a little daily shuteye, no matter the number of naps or their duration, with a 64 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than those who didn’t nap.The authors suggest naps could boost heart health via stress reduction. The study confirms past research that shows that rates of death from heart disease are lower in countries where midday naps are common, such as the Mediterranean and parts of Latin America.Source:  http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2382-job-health-impact.html  (Read no. #3 “The Afternoon Nap)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great article. Thanks for linking here.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Good one.  

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Naps can be very beneficial especially after lunch and dinner. The secret for me is to keep them short and follow them with a walk or other exercise. It’s also useful to have 5 or six smaller meals per day that keeps the body from having spikes in blood sugar. I’ve tried different combinations, but two short 15 minute naps per day seem to be ideal for my body clock.

    • Jim Martin

      John, I often take a nap immediately after lunch.  However, I have never thought about exercising immediately afterward.  Thanks.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I like your idea about following a nap with a walk. My most creative times are while exercising. I wonder if the combination of napping AND walking would multiply it.

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    I am a secret napper.  I sneak a nap when I can, but usually only get to on Sunday afternoons.

    Or does at night about 9PM before heading to bed count?

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      What is it about Sunday afternoons?  I always seem more tired on Sunday afternoon than any other. 

  • http://www.fieldofdebt.com/ Jen McDonough

    I KNOW following great leaders, mentors, and coaches is a great way to lead us to success in a wise, mature method….HOWEVER, this nap thing just is hard to grasp. As a high “I” type person on the DISC profile, the thought of a 5 mile run sounds more relaxing than a nap.
    Is meditatingand/or a walk be  just as beneficial? 
    What a great post – it sure got me thinking at least about it even though the concept seems very unnatural.
    Keep Living Beyond Awesome!
    Jen McDonough

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, absolutely. What works for me, might not work for you. The key is to relax and recharge.
      Thanks for your comments!

      • http://www.fieldofdebt.com/ Jen McDonough

        I had to laugh when I saw your post go out last week. Listening to your podcast is almost like a checklist of fun things we can do to improve our lives. Wen I listen to it, I think, okay, I can do this when you are talking about things. The nap thing honestly however was a curve ball – I felt like one of our four kids whining about taking a nap!!

        Perhaps I will start with meditating for at least 2 minutes. It is those intentional baby steps that bring us to our goal. (:


    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Jen, instead of a nap I often step outside, put a chair in the sun, and close my eyes for 15 minutes. The distance from my laptop and intentional slow-down makes a huge difference in my afternoon productivity.

      • http://www.fieldofdebt.com/ Jen McDonough

        Oh my gosh, that sounds lovely!!! I could do that!!! 
        What a great idea…thank you!

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          You’re welcome. Let me know if you try it!

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Say Hi to Pat Flynn at Blog World.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Too bad we’ll miss each other. Hopefully, we can connect another time.

      • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

        With the help of your new book “platform” Michael, I’m going to build my platform and I will be speaking at Blog World next year!

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    I don’t need a nap everyday. But I have found that when I rest, often a flood of ideas will spring forth.  Giving my brain down time without external stimuli, definitely increases my productivity in that regard.  

    I am  blogging about having a plan today Michael, so I added a link to your free ebook on that subject. 

  • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    How does someone who works in a cubicle get a nap in? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      As I suggested in the podcast, you have to be creative—your car, a closet, an unused or unoccupied conference room are all possibilities. It might not be possible for everyone. Thanks.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Sunglasses? ;)

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I worked with a guy 15 years ago, who went to his car to nap every day at lunch.  At that office, everyone could see out the window into the parking lot and had a direct view of him sleeping.  We thought it was funny, but now I see that the joke was on us!

  • Preston Mitchell

    Great  blog Michael.  I am a closet napper.  I haven’t come out and told people I nap because I am afraid people will think I am lazy.  Today, I am coming out of the closet.  Naps have always refreshed me and made me a better thinker, decision maker and more calm.  I can’t them every day, but when I can, I do.

    Thanks for standing up for the nappers!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I thought by coming out of the closet on naps myself it would give others permission to do it.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Mike ! I am fan of sleeping. I love to take naps. But, naps are possible for me during week days. I used to take naps during weekends (only Saturday & Sunday alone). My job nature prevents me from taking naps on other days.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      There are definitely some jobs like that.

  • http://swordinfire.blogspot.com Theron Mathis

    Wow…this was good one.  I was on the verge of hitting delete, and am glad I listened.  

    I have done this in the best but not regularly.  

    Like one questioner, I have had trouble falling asleep as well, but I do a similar process of relaxation as Michael, and even when I didn’t sleep the deep relaxation had a rejuvenating effect.  


    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Theron, I had the same thing happen today.  I couldn’t get to sleep in 20 mins, but just relaxing with my eyes closed refreshed me and made me much better for the rest of the day!

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    I’m not because of the location of the rehearsal rooms at the moment. I wouldn’t know where to nap, although perhaps I will find a place to do it.

  • http://www.kentrecommends.com/ Kent Faver

    I usually know by 9 am if my previous night’s sleep was optimal.  If it wasn’t, I typically take a nap immediately after a fairly light lunch at home.  I don’t set my alarm, and I will sleep from 5 to 25 minutes.  Any longer – I am groggy and need coffee for the afternoon.  If I had optimal, good sleep the night before, I may or not nap – but I often still rest for a few minutes.

    I lay on the living room floor, with a pillow, on my back, and with a blanket if it’s cool. I don’t roll around, change positions, etc. I fall asleep 80% of the time, and it is very quickly.  If I don’t fall asleep – I will get up after 5-10 minutes of rest.  When I awake, I get up.  Works wonderfully for me – and has for 10+ years.  

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Thanks for sharing your experience, Kent. Sounds like you have a great strategy in place!

  • Shirl Corder

    I have never been a napper. but then I’ve never suffered from burn-out either. I’m now recovering from the latter and sometimes just have to lie down after lunch. I feel SO GUILTY. I’ve downloaded your podcast and will listen to it tomorrow . . . on my bed! Thank you for the excellent timing. If it helps, I’ll be tweeting and FBing it tomorrow!

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks Shirl!  Good for you in doing something like this that can restore and refresh.

  • Doug

    I definitely do this on the weekends, but I get in my daily exercise during lunch on weekdays.  Wondering when I would do my nap in this scenario.

    • Jim Martin

      Doug, good for you regarding what you are doing regarding exercise at lunch.  I have a good friend who has the same practice.  That is such a good habit that can refresh and restore energy.

      • Doug

        I am a triathlete so I have to try to squeeze it in whenever I get.  The problem with my scenario is that we generally need more rest due to our activity level.  Take today for example where I swam during lunch and rode the bicycle in the afternoon and then I will run in the morning before work.  On the weekends I do almost exactly as Michael says but during the week on the days I am really tired, I actually take a 30 minute nap when I get home at 5:00.  It keeps me up a little later on those nights but it works.  I just wonder if I was able to carve out the time after the workout, should I try to do it then or should I maybe wait two hours or something similar.

  • KarlMealor

    When I was a kid, my dad worked at a local textile mill.  He came home during lunch, scarfed down a quick lunch, then napped about half an hour before heading back to work.  He told me that he heard that Thomas Edison had trained himself to fall asleep quickly and wake up from a quick nap.

    So…I now try to catch a quick 10-20 minute nap after lunch every day.  It makes an amazing difference in my mentality.  It truly is equivalent to a battery recharge or hitting the reset button.  I used to try to just “fight through” my slow time of the day, but by giving into the need for some shut-eye, it actually makes me much more productive for a longer period of time.

    Thanks for spreading the word.

    • Jim Martin

      Karl, thanks for this story about your Dad!  Thanks also for sharing your own experience.  Like you, I used to just “fight through” slow parts of the day.  A nap really does make a difference (for me at least).

  • http://twitter.com/SimonCHulse Simon Hulse

    The music is slightly ironic for this particular podcast, given that the bridge repeatedly says “Don’t close your eyes”

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      LOL!  Nice catch, Simon!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I didn’t think about that, but you are right!

  • http://www.RobynHurst.com/ Robyn Hurst

    Love this podcast!  Second of yours that I have downloaded, and the second that I have thoroughly enjoyed…and by the way, I am definitely a 20 minute napper myself…in fact, my body seems to naturally begin drifting up from sleep just before my alarm goes off!  One thought, though, for some to consider… I usually wait just a small bit after eating before I  “lay down” (if that is an option) to digest a bit and would suggest that to others…otherwise there may be a case of acid reflux problems…if one can sleep sitting up and leaning on a wall or car seat, then no problem!

  • joyceglass

    Michael, you should have talked to me! I am a professional napper! ;)

    One other thing that I have read about napping, it is a visual. As you go through the day things in your mind get disorganized. Then when you take a nap it is like a puzzle being put back together. You have more focus & clarity.

    I have napped for years! There are days that I am running so hard that if I don’t take a nap I cannot finish what I need too. I don’t sleep enough at night is the other part of my problem. I am a night owl, and can be most productive from 8-12pm, and then I want to read or something different. I am trying to break that habit, because I really want & need to get up earlier to do the many things I want to do. Thanks for the post! I am enjoying the podcast too!!!

  • Hull, Pamela

    Another way to refresh is a quick brisk walk, preferably in a park or the country.  15 minutes will be transformational!

  • http://twitter.com/cc636 ChrisTAL

    I listened to this podcast this morning, and this afternoon took a nap. I am now still going strong and it is 5:30pm. Since this is a busy week for me, it’s an 8:30a-whenever I am not able to process kind of day. 

    I am SO happy I took the nap! 

  • http://twitter.com/TrinaKLee Trina Lee

    Michael, you mentioned discretion, but would you advise discussing the desire to take a nap during the workday with a current or potential supervisor? If so, how would you approach the topic? It seems prudent to have such a conversation for protection, even if part of your lunch break.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think it really depends on your circumstances. You might have them listen to my podcast and then ask, “What do you think?”

  • Chris Holden

    Listening to this episode on the drive home in LA traffic probably wasn’t the best idea. But I love the message, I am a habitual nap taker on my lunch hour. Didn’t really know anybody else did it. Thanks for the inspriation to keep napping.

  • http://christopherbattles.net/ Christopher Battles

    Thank you Michael.
    This was a reassuring message when I start to feel a bit tired midday.
    Thank you again for this podcast.

    K, bye

  • http://somewiseguy.com/ ThatGuyKC

    Two things:
    1. I LOVE the podcast. I listen religiously and recommend it to all my friends. I don’t always have time to read the blog and I like to listen while I’m at work or waiting for the bus. Thank you.
    2. I’m a huge fan of naps! I take naps on the bus to and from work and every Sunday afternoon. It’s a great energy booster and helps me recharge.

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  • http://twitter.com/SymbiotaTech Symbiota

    I have been considering taking more naps so thanks for the podcast. One thing I have been oing over the last week is working out at lunch which has increased afternoon productivity substantially. Will  try and combine the workout with taking a 20 min nap this week and see how it works. 

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  • Santi

    I am napper, I am from Spain. I was shocked to hear that so many famous people in the USA nap, but I was surprised that I did not hear the “fiesta” of napping in Spain.
    I am a private school teacher, but I just started a new business at http://www.myspanishtutoronline.com

    Thank you Michael for a great topic.