In the first century AD, Roman poet Ovid wrote the following: “There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled.”
I’ve always been a closet napper. Yup. But, not wanting to be judged a slacker, I’ve kept my little secret to myself. However, now, lo and behold, it turns out that what I thought of as weakness is in fact a salubrious invigoration and summoner of creative efficacy. Indeed, some claim you can nap your way to greatness.
I recently came across a wonderful article by Brett and Kate McKay on napping which chronicles the benefits of napping for such illuminati as Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Edison, JFK, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lyndon Johnson, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Einstein, and Salvador Dali. My favorite example from their piece highlights Winston Churchill. Churchill said, “Nature has not intended man to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” Churchill was a night owl, but he took two baths and a two hour nap every afternoon, which he claimed allowed him to be twice as productive as the normal person Naps were so sacrosanct to Churchill that he unapologetically kept a bed in the House of Parliament. He believed it was the key to his success in leading England through the Battle of Britain in WWII.
But there is more than anecdotal evidence for the value of napping. The McKays point out that humans are among the few animals that take their sleep in one shot. The rest of the animal kingdom consists of “polyphasic” sleepers; they alternate sleep and wake cycles throughout a 24 hour period.
Also, according to government reports, fatigue costs American business an estimated $65 billion a year in lost productivity. And the Harvard Business Review has reported significant scientific evidence that sleep deprivation, because of its effects on decision-making and thought process, can actually cause or facilitate unethical actions.
I think all of this probably applies in spades to us entrepreneurs. We are passionate drivers and unstinting articulators for our firms and of our ideas. So fatigued and slow moving minds, that don’t acknowledge the need for periodic stopping points, are even more a particular threat to our effectiveness and a diminishment of our ambient business IQ.
Let me stop with these few lines today. I’m feeling a bit weary. I think I’ll take a nap. But before I slip into the sweet arms of Lethe let me leave you with this quote from Robert Fulghum from All I Really Know I Learned in Kindergarten. “Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.” Thanks, Robert.