Be honest: That burrito you scarfed down for lunch probably wasn't the best idea in the world. And now, you have what Dave Chappelle warmly calls "the itis." Your eyes can't stay open and your productivity is shot, but a warm, cozy nap eludes you.
It's not just you, though! Take heart knowing that when it comes to recharging your brain power, science is actually on your side. Here, in no particular order, are four lab-tested reasons you should be allowed to take an afternoon snooze while on the clock:
1. Naps help you learn new information
You spent all morning trying to learn about a potential new client, but nothing's sticking. What to do? German researchers suggest a quick siesta.
Psychologists have long known that fresh memories get stored temporarily in the hippocampus, aka the brain's "loading dock." Sleep helps transport this information to the brain's more permanent storage area in the neocortex. Researchers from the University of Lubeck in Germany decided to test this by asking volunteers to study an assortment of pictures, poems, and algebra equations. Participants who took a 40-minute nap after combing through the material ended up performing up to 85 percent better on a memory test than their non-napping peers.
2. Naps makes you more productive
Look, you're supposed to get a full eight hours of sleep every night, but let's be real: Nobody has time for that. That's why companies like Nike and Deloitte are embracing what Cornell psychologist James Maas dubbed the power nap.
Sleep deprivation does all sorts of icky stuff to your body, like causing insulin levels to spike and significantly raising your risk of heart disease. A power nap — 30 minutes or shorter, or before you enter REM sleep — can help you make up for lost time, especially if you work long hours. A 20-minute nap between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. after lunch "will allow you to be as productive right after the nap as you were before it," according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
And if your workplace isn't equipped for napping, try your car. Just remember to set an alarm.
3. Naps can give you a jolt of creativity
If you've spent all morning stumped by a logistical problem, a power nap can give your brain the creative firepower it needs to find the solution. Neuroscience researchers from Georgetown University examined the mental spark by monitoring the brain activity of 15 nappers. They discovered that the hemisphere associated with creativity — the right side, for most people — "chattered busily to itself as well as to the left hemisphere, which remained relatively quiet," reports CNN. The researchers described the activity as a kind of "housecleaning" for your noggin.
4. Naps will make you more pleasant to be around
Clearing out the hippocampus' mental inbox can help boost your mood. Controlling for 5-, 10-, 20-, and 30-minute sleep intervals, Australian researchers discovered a half-hour nap was followed by "a period of impaired alertness and performance immediately after napping, indicative of sleep inertia," followed by mental improvements that lasted for up to 155 minutes. A nap had all the mood-elevating powers of coffee without a person's drinking a cup.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Here comes the Pentagon's newest space plane
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Extreme haunted houses: Inside Halloween's most terrifying new trend
- Did the media get Ferguson wrong?
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- America's anti-feminist mega-corporations' toxic disregard for women must stop
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
Subscribe to the Week