Feeling Angry? Take a Nap
Aggravated? Do what any mother of a tantrum-y toddler would do, and put yourself down for a quick snooze. Taking a nap can help you deal with minor frustrations, a new study suggests.
University of Michigan psychologists make the case for a workplace nap room in an upcoming issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences. In the study, a group of research subjects took a midday nap after participating in computer-based tasks specifically designed to frustrate them.
Here’s how aggravating the activity was, according to the researchers:
Four geometric designs are presented successively on a computer screen. Participants are directed to recopy the diagram on a piece of paper, without tracing over any line twice and without lifting the pencil from the paper. Half of each set of designs was unsolvable.
While the 40 participants initially spent equal time attempting to conquer the unsolvable puzzles the scientists put before them, a one-hour nap made people more likely to continue spending time on the problem, while non-nappers (who watched a nature documentary for an hour instead) were more likely to give up. The nappers also reported that they felt less impulsive after having a snooze. The subjects had kept a consistent sleep schedule for the few days before the study, and the groups were randomized to control for age, habitual feelings of sleepiness, and other factors.
The nappers’ abilities to press on with a difficult task suggests that they were better equipped deal with frustration after they slept.
Patience seems to be finite, just like willpower. Just as people are more likely to cheat and make irrational decisions after a long day, when their mental resources are running low, they also may be more willing to throw up their hands and say, "Enough! This is impossible." With a quick nap though, they will keep working, even on an exasperating task. Of course, this might not translate to the outside world. These subjects probably weren't lying awake mulling over their inane geometry task like you might obsess over an insurmountable work assignment.