To Nap or Not to Nap? We Ask a Doctor

Are you still working from home, back in the office or hybrid (some days in the office and some days at home)? The past year has pushed us deeper into living our lives online and as such, there’s digital fatigue and some of us have taken to daily naps to combat this stress. But is there a right or wrong way to nap? How do we know if our power naps between Zoom meetings are compromising our nighttime sleep cycles?

We discuss the topic of napping with Dr Chua Chong Bing, Family Physician at Healthway Medical Group (Lengkong Tiga) to put the conversation to rest and get to know more about sleep habits and how it affects our overall well-being.

Q: What are some sleep conditions that can arise from work from home and hybrid work arrangements?

Due to the shifts in routine caused by remote working arrangements, such as increased digital usage and working and living in the same environment, sleep conditions such as insomnia and waking during the night have been on the rise. This could be caused by the ease of access when working remotely.

Since calls, emails and WhatsApp messages are being delivered instantaneously, superiors can call up on subordinates with a click of a button, causing the mind to be constantly in a state of work. In addition, remote working removes the ritual of commuting to and from our workplaces, which often works as a sort of “on-off” switch. For instance, when we get up to get ready for work, step into the MRT to commute to our workplace, it lets our mind and body make the transition into work mode. Similarly, this happens in the evenings when we knock off from work – we initiate our going home routine of clocking out of the office and mentally turning off our work mode.

Thus, although working from home offers flexibility, it is undeniably more difficult to turn “on” or “off” our work mode, which can in turn affect our sleep schedule and habits.


Q: What are the best ways to nap when working from home?

It must be emphasised that nothing can completely replace a good night’s sleep. However, napping can be a good mechanism to provide that extra boost in productivity and help us power through the rest of our day. If you’re looking to catch a quick nap when working from home, keep in mind these key tips:

  • Timing is everything. Be sure to nap earlier in the afternoon, preferably before 3pm and no longer than half an hour.
  • Be sure to keep naps below 30 minutes. This is to prevent your body from entering slow-wave sleep and thus, preventing sleep inertia – which is a transitional state between sleep and wake, and can cause impaired performance and a strong desire to  continue sleeping.
  • Create a conducive environment. To help you fall asleep, try wearing an eye mask, putting on some relaxing music and sleeping in a room where there are minimal distractions.

Q: Can we incorporate naps when we are back in the office too?

Depending on your company’s corporate culture, sneaking in a midday nap may not be as easy as napping at home. While some companies encourage napping at work and have even gone the lengths to install sleeping pods within their offices, some corporate cultures in Singapore may still frown upon the practice.

However, if you really require that quick shut-eye to get through the rest of your day, you can try the numerous sleep pods for rent near your office. Should you decide to take a power nap, keep in mind the key tips of sleeping earlier in the afternoon and not more than half an hour to reap the full benefits of your nap.

If napping is not an option for you during your work day, a cup of coffee or tea can also do the trick in providing you with that extra burst of energy. Alternatively, you can also try squeezing in a midday workout or taking a quick walk around your office to counter that afternoon sleepiness.

Q: What are the types of naps that we should avoid and why?

There are a variety of naps that you can take that provide a range of different benefits according to your needs. The general rule of thumb remains that the nap should range from 15 to 20 minutes, and not exceed more than half an hour so as to avoid sleep inertia.

Some common naps include recovery naps (otherwise known as power naps), used to briefly make up for sleep loss from the night before; prophylactic naps, used pre-emptively to prepare for sleep loss; essential naps, taken by individuals who have fallen sick and need sleep to encourage recovery; and caffeine naps, which involve drinking coffee or tea immediately before sleeping for a short period of time and waking up as the effects of the caffeine start to kick in.

Each of these naps serve a different function and can be beneficial for the napper when taken correctly. As long as the nap does not interfere with your night time rest, there is nothing wrong with taking a quick shut eye in the daytime.

Q: Does the location of your nap affect the outcome?

Yes, the location does affect the quality of your nap. Napping in the same locations where you tend to do work can affect your body’s ability to fall asleep as there are competing cues to stay awake and focus. To alleviate this issue, make sure you choose a quiet, comfortable spot that is only used for resting, and if possible, nap in the same spot every time.

Q: Are there substitutes to that afternoon nap, in situations where catching a quick snooze is impossible?

If you’re unable to find the time or space to nap, a cup of coffee or tea is a viable alternative to getting a few minutes of shut-eye, as long as you take it at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime so that your body can metabolise at least half of the caffeine consumption.

Taking a short walk outside, stretching, or squeezing in a short workout can also replace a nap by increasing blood flow through the body and to the brain, helping us feel more awake.

Images: Envato and Unsplash


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