To Nap or UnNap? That is the Question for the Sleep-Deprived

Dr. Matthew Edlund, author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough


Even though rest is how your body rebuilds, there's virtually no time or space to do it at work. We really do need rest, but much of the population is sleep-deprived. And, being severely rest-deprived fouls up mood, performance and health. If you overdo it, you'll feel overwhelmed. If you allow rest-deprivation to happen over and over, you'll become exhausted.

Taking breaks is often the only way to prevent the error that being tired and ill-rested can cause, yet it's hard for most workers to rest -- and still be efficient -- at work. You have to take the right kinds of breaks.


You probably can't take naps at work -- about half of Fortune 500 corporations will fire you or reprimand you if you nap on the job.

Instead, take an UnNap Nap using its paradoxical relaxation technique. UnNap Naps can be taken in a very short time -- one to three minutes -- though you can certainly take longer ones.

  • Where and when you can take an UnNap Nap: anywhere, any time.
  • What it is: it's all about paying attention to muscle tension -- that's it.
  • Why it is "paradoxical" relaxation: you rest and relax by not relaxing -- thus, the paradox.

How to take an UnNap

1. Sit in a comfortable place (try this first when you're not at work).

2. Start with any muscle in the head that feels tight. Can't find one? If you're looking at a screen all day, the middle of your forehead should feel tight; others find that some spot on their neck is always a bit tight.

3. Put one hand over your closed eyes (if asked at work, you can say you have a little headache you're trying to fix).

4. With your other hand, point at the muscle that's a bit tense in order to focus in on it; put your hand back.

5. Continue to focus all your attention on the tense muscle. Feel it. Sense it. Don't relax it or tense it. Just focus on it. You can also visualize the muscle. Muscles work like a set of teeth in a comb -- when they're tense, they bunch up; when relaxed, they pull away from each other.

6. Sense that muscle and its tension for 30 seconds.

7. Pull your hand away from your eyes and open them.

8. Now, think about how the muscle feels. Does it feel relaxed? What about the rest of your body?

9. Here's where the paradox comes in -- with all your attention focused on one spot, the rest of the body relaxes.

10. Now, sense other muscles on your face or head that are tense. Choose one. For the next 15 seconds, just sense that muscle alone. Feel it with your complete attention. Continue until you feel more relaxed.

Extending the UnNap Nap

1. To make the UnNap Nap as close to a nap as possible, do a mental scan of the body, focusing on different muscle groups one at a time, stopping at any that are feeling tense. Go down the body muscle by muscle. Sense each muscle group for 15 seconds. Go from head to toe.

2. After awhile, you'll be able to easily pick them out, especially if you work at a desk.

3. When you feel fully relaxed, notice your attention level. You should feel more relaxed and focused.

Using the UnNap Nap

You can use the UnNap Nap to relax anywhere, any time, and with practice it can be done in 15 seconds or less. It can be used to:

  • Improve concentration quickly

  • Relieve stress almost anywhere, any time

  • Help you nap or fall asleep when you have the time

  • Help teach you active rest -- the many different techniques to power you up when you're exhausted or calm you when you're stressed.

  • Help you relax and de-stress in the middle of a exam -- academic, medical, whatever.

Rest rebuilds and revives the body. Active rest helps you direct that rebuilding, so you can direct it where you want it, making you more productive, more alert, more relaxed, and often looking and feeling younger, too.

Matthew Edlund, M. D., M.O.H., is an award-winning expert on rest, body clocks, and sleep. Dr. Edlund's work had been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Prevention, Shape, Redbook, Real Simple, More,, and hundreds of other magazines, newspapers and websites. He founded the West Coast Regional Sleep Disorders Center, and now runs both the Center for Circadian Medicine and the Gulf Coast Sleep Institute in Sarasota, Florida.

Next: Shift Work Got You Feeling Sleepy? >>

Read Full Story