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Sleeping on the job has always been taboo and it’s even turned into a bit of a joke. Ever heard someone ask a coworker, “have you been sleeping on the job?” when they appear unalert, not focused or just unproductive? There’s a certain truth to that. Napping in the workplace is no longer super taboo — in fact, it’s shifted from being a mark of irresponsibility to a very responsible move.
Companies that embrace napping in the workplace have been such a trendy topic, but it’s more than that. Their commitment to workplace napping is a bigger commitment to their overall health and wellness.
Why Do We Need Naps?
Not just workplace ones, but naps in general. Why are naps important? Well it’s a history and science lesson combined. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep for short periods of time throughout the day. Humans are in the minority, as our days are divided into two sections: awake and asleep.
But there’s not scientific evidence to support that this is the natural sleep patterns for humans. In the early days of man, there’s reason to believe we absolutely took naps and didn’t only operate in two modes. But as time has worn on (looking at you Industrial Revolution and Digital Revolution) Americans are avoiding naps and staying busy for longer periods of time. Naps are for wimps, right?
Wrong. While a 20 minute nap can improve performance, alertness, and mood, naps do not necessarily make up for consistently low-quality sleep.
Keeping a nap to 20 minutes will improve short-term alertness without leaving you feeling groggy. We’ve all had naps where we slept too long and woke up more tired than when we started. That means you napped too long and your body fell into a deeper sleep.
Benefits Of Napping At Work
Author Dan Pink writes about work, management, and behavioral science. In his recent work, When, he explores how timing is related to decision making. He’s found that all people go through three stages of their day: peak, trough, and recovery.
So in every person, usually about 7-8 hours after you wake up, we hit a lull. Think of it like your afternoon slump. It’s normal! We then bounce back in the evening time, around 5 pm for most working adults, and then it’s bedtime shortly after. So why not use that afternoon lull to really rest up?
Benefits of napping at work (and napping anywhere, for that matter) include:
- Increased alertness.
- You’ll be more patient.
- It helps improve your memory.
- Even thinking about napping can lower your blood pressure.
- It’ll give you a creative boost!
- It’s a mini vacation for your mind, helping you relax, rejuvenate and re-focus.
What About Shift Work?
Shift work takes a toll on our bodies and our sleep patterns in general, but napping can help. Researchers at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center found that a combination of caffeine and a brief nap can help people cope with sleepiness during the night shift.
What’s A Caffeine Nap?
A caffeine nap will give your nap an extra boost. If you consume an average amount of caffeine, like a cup of coffee, and then take your nap, you’ll be much more alert and rested when you wake. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to work in your system, so if you’re asleep while it’s working, you’re doing double duty rejuvenation.
Companies That Allow Napping At Work
Significant research has helped shift the mentality that napping indicates laziness. Business owners are recognizing that daytime napping can come with both psychological and professional advantages. A September 2011 study in the Journal of Sleep indicated that lost productivity and insomnia costs companies nearly $63 billion collectively in one year.
Here are some of the pioneers that have introduced napping into the workplace:
- Google offers nap pods for employees to block out the daylight and relax
- Zappos offers nap pods, massage chairs, wellness fairs and onsite health screenings, looking to the overall health and wellbeing of their employees
- “Sleeping nooks” are the answer for San Francisco-based Capital One Labs
- Ben & Jerry’s was an early adopter and has offered an office nap room for over a decade.
When discussing the focus on naps in their offices, many leaders have said there’s a misconception that the harder and longer you work, the better you do. As a culture, we’re fascinated with the effects of burnout on our productivity and physical health.
Get quality sleep at night and avoid tired slumps.
Whether it’s our mammal-ness, or the fact that the afternoon slump is a real thing, it’s normal for humans to get a little tired at some point during our day. But a nap won’t “fix” sleep deprivation. There’s no making it back when you’ve been sleepless for many nights on end.
If you’re finding that you’re constantly tired, laggard or just not sleeping well at night, you may have a bigger issue. The effects of sleep deprivation go much further than just an unproductive day at work.
To improve your overall sleep health, there are many things to consider including diet, exercise, routine and overall sleeping environment. Is your poor sleep quality caused by your mattress? Perhaps you need a new one. Why not invest in your health with a better mattress that's perfect just for you?
As organizations, and even individuals, begin focusing on sleep health and productivity in a different light, consider how a nap during the day can impact your energy levels. If you stick to the napping best practices of no more than 20 minutes and no electronics, you’ll feel a difference. Your employer will thank you — so will your body.