We proposal professionals take great pride in the number of consecutive hours we can work on a proposal. Sit down with proposal managers, and inevitably we start telling stories about our incredible physical feats of wakefulness. “I worked 24 straight hours on a proposal with only breaks for meals,” one person will say. Another will chime in, “I worked 36 hours in a row to finish a proposal and slept just four hours under my desk. When my co-workers arrived in the morning, they thought I was dead!” With their tight deadlines and iterations, proposals lend themselves to long hours, night, and weekend work.
However, there is no evidence that this kind of regimen is good for the mind or body. Quite the opposite. All the scientific evidence we have indicates that we need plenty of sleep to recharge our bodies, enhance our thinking skills, and foster our creativity.
In many parts of the world from Spain to India to China, daytime napping is very common. Although nappers may be unaware of the research on sleep, many scientific studies have shown that napping enhances your cognitive functions. It does so in three ways:
1. Napping enhances your brain power. Napping helps clear out the brain’s temporary storage space, to use an IT metaphor, so that you are ready to learn and retain new information. A nap lasting an hour helps restore your brain’s capacity to function and thus makes you smarter.
2. Napping enhances your creativity. Recent research on the brain indicates that during a nap, the right side of the brain is stimulated while the left side is relatively quiet. The right side of the brain is associated with your creativity.
3. Napping enables you to recharge your brain. This is the clearest and most obvious result of a good nap. Prolonged wakefulness is harmful to the human body. Napping enables you to rest, recharge, and return to work thinking more clearly.
I do not think we should expect conference rooms in our organizations to be replaced by napping rooms, although it probably would promote a more alert and creative workforce. And I do not recommend that you nap at your desk if you want to keep your job.
However, I do strongly recommend that if you need to work really long hours over a day, several days, or a week, that you plan to take daily naps of at least one hour. You will feel refreshed and more alert. No one, including proposal professionals, should go without sleep on a regular basis. Take (more) naps, and you may become a smarter, more creative, and more productive proposal professional. Napping is not a sign of laziness, but an indication of intelligence.