“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“The dream is free but the hustle is sold separately.”
“Life is 90% hustle, 10% sleep!”
Ask any entrepreneur in America and most will tell you they’ve heard, said or been told sentiments like these before. That’s because in the U.S., working non-stop is a common indicator of success. There’s an expectation that, in order to prove you’re committed to your vision, the acceptable standard is to sacrifice every single thing—rest included.
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us relish a good nap. And it turns out we have every reason to believe in the science behind napping. Studies have repeatedly exhibited the crucial role that sleep and rest play in the proper healing of the human body, cognitive function and overall happiness.
According to Professor Matthew Walker, director for the UC Berkeley Center for Human Sleep Science, we humans still are the only “species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, “More than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Humans are part of the minority of monophasic sleepers, meaning that our days are divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness. It is not clear that this is the natural sleep pattern of humans. Young children and elderly persons nap, for example, and napping is a very important aspect of many cultures.”
Speaking of cultures, it’s important to note that there are several around the globe that inherently embrace, recognize and appreciate the value of napping and rest: siestas in Spain and Mexico. Riposo in Italy. Wǔshuǐ in China. Qailulah practices in Islamic culture. The lifestyle concept of “Hygge” in Denmark. Even the business-driven Japanese culture has a napping practice called Inemuri. Oddly in the U.S., however, napping has been widely (and wrongly) regarded as laziness, a sign of frailty or a lack of self-motivation.
I’m ecstatic to report that I’m not alone in my thinking when it comes to the value of napping: The Nap Ministry, founded in 2016, is a movement rooted in the position that “rest is resistance” and a right. The account has amassed close to 500,000 followers on Instagram.
Still not convinced? Here’s a breakdown below of the benefits of napping and how—whether you’re an entrepreneur, in-office corporate professional, or a work-from-home employee—you can get your proper nap on.
Benefits of a Good Nap
Improved productivity: It’s been shown that naps can “contribute to insightful, inferential thinking,” which is the kind that helps you process information. Have you ever been trying to read a book when you’re tired and you keep reading the same sentence over and over, but you never comprehend it? That’s a sign that your inferential thinking has been affected.
More creativity: Research from a study completed in 2013 by professors at Georgetown University’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging found that the right side of the brain—the hemisphere connected to creativity—stayed busy during napping, while the analytical left side remained dormant, suggesting a strong correlation between naps and increased visualization or big-picture thinking.
Improved Immunity: A 2022 article written by the Sleep Foundation found a bidirectional relationship between sleeping and the immune system. It states, “Immune response, like that caused by a viral infection, can affect sleep (hundreds of thousands of people reported having problems sleeping in connection with COVID). At the same time, consistent sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function.” Since other studies have shown that napping can actually make up for sleep deprivation, it’s easy to see how napping would then positively boost immunity.
Tips for Optimal Napping
Get intentional: Set aside and dedicate time specifically to the nap experience. Schedule naps just like you would any other appointment or meeting, and schedule them regularly.
Be judicious with the time: The optimal nap time is 20-30 minutes. Be careful, however, that you don’t sleep much longer than that otherwise you risk entering what’s known as “slow wave sleep,” which will leave you groggy upon waking.
Set the stage: Spend the first five minutes quieting your mind in preparation for rest. Try “Rest Life” meditation from The Nap Ministry’s Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey. Quiet or white noise will work well, too.
Provide a gentle re-entry: Give your mind (especially that dormant, analytical left side) another five minutes to re-engage after taking a nap. Jumping immediately into something as soon as you wake up can counteract the napping benefits.
Integrating Napping into Your Lifestyle
Create a nap culture: Larger organizations like Ben & Jerry’s, Thrive Global, and Zappo’s have resources such as tech-driven nap pods with features like zero gravity, programmed lights/vibrations and timed waking. But almost any sized company can show their employees they’re valued through establishing a corporate culture that emphasizes the importance of napping. All that’s needed is an unused office or enclosed space equipped with yoga mats, a sofa, or chaises, along with items like disposable sleep masks, music, soft lighting and noise-canceling headphones.
Create a proper WFH “nap-vironment”: Working from home as an entrepreneur or employee? Do your napping in a designated place that’s not your actual bed. Getting in bed can signal to your brain that it’s bedtime, making getting back up more difficult and napping less effective.
If you’re feeling really fancy, you could even get a napping convertible bed & desk combo like this Desk with Cabinet Murphy Bed or Modern Birch Full / Double Murphy Bed. If this gorgeous prototype is ever brought to market, it would definitely be my personal top pick for creating my perfect “entrepre-napper” lifestyle. I’ll sleep to that!