Made to Be: The Afternoon Siesta Meets Freelancing

By Angela Tague, Contributor, on December 25, 2017

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As a freelancer, your brain is always on. There’s invoicing to tackle, promotions to share on social media, customer emails to answer and paperwork to handle. Then, of course, there are services to perform and products to create. When you’re a business-of-one, there’s no delegating extra tasks to a team member. Sometimes your work day lingers well beyond the typical eight-hour stretch.

That’s why an afternoon siesta and freelancing simply go hand-in-hand. Yes, I sleep on the job. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that sometimes I take naps between work tasks while others are traditionally on the clock. Yesterday I logged 13 hours at my desk to meet a stack of overlapping deadlines from a handful of clients. Today, I unapologetically took two hours out of my day for some rest and relaxation. It turns out, daytime shut-eye is good for my health and my business.

Disconnecting and catching a quick siesta can be a good move for freelancers. That downtime is just what we need to wipe the mental slate clean and refresh our physical performance.

The Power of Napping

Taking a nap can improve alertness, motor performance, reaction times, logical reasoning, symbol recognition and verbal word recall according to an article from the American Psychological Association (APA). The article goes on to explain that after a nap, workers are less impulsive and able to regulate emotions more effectively, including frustration.

“What’s amazing is that in a 90-minute nap, you can get the same [learning] benefits as an eight-hour sleep period,” says Sara Mednick, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside. “And actually, the nap is having an additive benefit on top of a good night of sleep.” Sure, caffeine may make you feel more awake, but a nap will do that and “[enhance] some forms of memory consolidation,” according to Mednick.

Some employers, like Uber and Google, have fashioned dedicated napping areas in their offices to encourage restorative naps for their workers in hopes of boosting afternoon creativity and productivity.

Schedule Your Siestas

If you want to improve your mood, alertness and performance, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends a short 20–30 minute nap during the day. A brief rest won’t leave you feeling groggy the rest of the day — or restless when it’s time to go to bed in the evening.

To get the most benefit from your downtime, nap in a quiet location with the curtains drawn, according to the NSF. Since I work from home, I can easily retire to my bedroom or the living room couch. I leave the television off and drift to sleep to the hum of an air purifier. A white noise machine can help, too.

Although it seems logical to only take a nap when you feel tired, you can preemptively add naps to your work day schedule. After studying my work patterns over several months, I’ve noticed that some of my chronic health issues flare up mid-week, and I tend to take sick time off work on Wednesdays afternoons or Thursdays. With that realization, I’ve implemented my personal version of Wellness Wednesday into my work schedule. I take Wednesday afternoons off to focus on self-care. Sometimes I nap. Other times, I read a book or watch a movie. Whatever I do, it gives my brain a chance to rest and refocus on a relaxing activity.

The Business Benefits of Rest

Part of launching and running a business is to be willing to put in the extra hours to get off the ground. The opposite perk: You can enjoy some downtime when your schedule allows. We know these breaks are good for our mind and body, but what about our bottom lines?

If you’re more productive and clear-minded after a nap, you’ll have the ability to get more done — especially if you focus that newfound energy into your work tasks. Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold says that after taking a nap, problem-solving skills are amplified, and people are better at sorting important details from the superfluous. If channeled properly, your afternoon work hours could be more productive after taking a nap. More work will get done, and a boost in task completion can trickle down to a boost in sales or progress in your projects.

I admit: I feel guilty when I succumb to an afternoon siesta that wasn’t planned. But I can agree that I feel more alert and focused for the remainder of the day when I get away from my computer for a bit and just let my body recharge. After discovering the health and business benefits of napping, I might just have to nod off more often. After all, the growth and success of my freelance business depends on my health.

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