Many of us office workers have felt it: those early hours of the afternoon, after lunch has settled, when our eyes begin to droop and our minds go fuzzy with drowsiness. For me, that bout of intense sleepiness hits right around 2:30 pm, and suddenly I’m struggling to focus on the computer screen. Wouldn’t it be great to just curl up for a few minutes in a dark corner of the office, take a nap, and wake up refreshed and ready to work again?
Your boss would probably frown upon that, but not every manager is against a nap in the office. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 6 percent of U.S. organizations provide nap rooms, up from 5 percent last year. All types of companies are beginning to see napping as a competitive advantage, including large corporations like Nike, Pizza Hut, and Google. Some companies have even made a business out of it: Yelo sells napping services in midtown Manhattan (a 20-minute snooze will cost you $15), while MetroNaps is responsible for the EnergyPods Google and others use. It’s a small market, but one that’s growing as more businesses consider the benefits of allowing their employees to rest when they need it.
And napping definitely has its benefits. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that a nap lasting up to 30 minutes can “restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.” According to a 2005 NASA study, napping improves working memory, which is important when doing a complex job or juggling multiple tasks at once. Another NASA study reports a 16 percent improvement in reaction time for pilots who take a half-hour nap during long flights.
Also, a U.S. News & World Report article says that since fatigue is often a reason for missing work, napping could help reduce absenteeism. And frankly, a quick refresher will just make you feel better. If you’re grouchy because you didn’t get enough sleep last night, taking a short nap during the day can help brighten your mood, which then positively affects your attitude toward customers and clients. Your coworkers will probably appreciate a happier you, too.
Do keep a few things in mind if you decide to start up your own napping regimen:
- Be careful how long you doze. Both NASA and the Sleep Foundation warn that napping for more than half an hour can lead to sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling that comes after too deep a sleep.
- The best time to nap is between 1 and 3 pm, when our bodies are already naturally sleepy. Don’t wait too long into the day, or else you’ll spoil your nighttime sleeping routine.
- Try to find a quiet, low-lit place to nap, as this will make it easier to nod off. Then again, if you’re like me, it’s going to take you a while to actually fall asleep no matter what you do—so don’t try to force it. Even just resting without sleeping can refresh you.
Unfortunately, if your boss catches you with your head down on your desk, you’re more likely to be scolded for slacking off than praised for trying to boost your levels of mental alertness. So unless you work in an environment that’s nap-friendly, you’ll probably need to find other ways to beat those 2:30 blues. To start, check out this list of ways to prevent cubicle burnout—but remember that the greatest long-term solution to your fatigue is getting a good night’s sleep, and doing so consistently. A nap in the afternoon can give you a boost, but sleeping well at night is your best bet for maintaining energy throughout the day—and for having the mental acuity to do your job well.
Are you a napper? Do you think having a nap room in the office is a good idea? What are some of the ways you get through sleepiness at work?