Biz Basics

By Beau Denton October 31, 2010

Sleeping On the Job?

In this era of downsizing

and job insecurity, workers are stressed and tired, and it’s not the kind of fatigue that a 3 p.m. coffee break can fix. Employers suffer the consequences in lower productivity as sluggish, burned-out workers are less able to organize their workdays, let alone think creatively.

But there is a fix, and it’s not a shot of espresso. Dr. Matthew Edlund, director of the Center for Circadian Medicine in Sarasota and author of The Power of Rest, is championing “active rest” as a way for workers to recharge and find a better balance in their lives.

In books, national television appearances and articles in places like The Huffington Post and Psychology Today, Edlund estimates that more than 90 percent of the American population is rest-deprived, because they are “alienated from their bodies, and they have no idea what to do to get them back.” The human body has a natural rhythm of rest and regeneration, and interrupting that rhythm means losing the alertness essential for surviving in a tough work environment.

Active rest is about strengthening your body’s process of regenerating itself and letting it recharge so you can keep doing the things you need to do. It’s about reminding yourself that you are, after all, human: “We have to stop treating our bodies like machines,” says Edlund. He offers hundreds of practical suggestions, many designed specifically for the middle of a workday—like the three-minute  muscle relaxation technique, the “UnNap Nap,” which he recently wrote about for CNN. Different techniques work for different people, so Edlund suggests finding what works for you. Before you know it, one of these techniques—maybe the UnNap Nap—could be more valuable to you than that extra cup of coffee. To read more about active rest techniques, check out the books and articles on Edlund’s website,


Four Aspects of Active Rest

1. Physical  Being physically active can contribute to true rest just as much as sleeping. Try a quick walk in the middle of the afternoon—a 20-minute stroll will improve your mood, increase Vitamin D and help grow new brain cells.

2. Mental  Look for activities that will inspire you and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Never underestimate the power of music: Edlund suggests tuning in to an upbeat song and taking a walk around the office.

3. Spiritual  You don’t have to be religious to find “a sense of awe, transcendence and perspective” in your day, says Edlund. A few moments of silence, ideally away from your computer, will help you reorient yourself and focus on what’s in front of you.

4. Social  When you’re walking around the office, stop to visit a coworker and talk about something other than work. Not only will social connections stimulate your own brain activity, but your coworker might find an unexpected boost as well. ■

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