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Sleeping on the Job: Can Napping at Work Increase Productivity?

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.

If you’re going to nap, try to find somewhere more comfortable than this.

If you’re going to nap, try to find somewhere more comfortable than this.

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?



Rachel Hamsmith

When not writing for the blog, Rachel is a data entry specialist at QLP. She spends most of her free time consuming a variety of geeky TV shows, movies, and books, as well as funny cat videos and other Internet oddities. Otherwise, she moonlights as an editor for a literary magazine and tries to spend as much quality time as she can with friends and family. You can also connect with Rachel on Google+.

Comments

  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    I can so get behind napping. AND the fact that it can increase productivity at work? Sign me up. I’m sure it would be healthier than creating caffeine-loaded drinks out of T-Discs and Starbucks Via Ready Brew (even though that was delicious).

    Great first post and welcome to the squad, Rachel!!!!

    • Rachel

      It sounds like, from what I’ve read, that caffeine basically blocks the receptors in our brains that tell us we are sleepy–you feel less tired, but you don’t actually restore your energy levels. Only sleep can do that. So caffeine works as a quick fix, but a nap (or, more ideally, a good night’s sleep) will actually address the real problem of fatigue. There’s a really great article about sleep if this stuff interests you (I’ve definitely found it all fascinating): http://harvardmagazine.com/2005/07/deep-into-sleep.html

      Thanks for the comment and the warm welcome, Mandy! :)

    • Amanda

      Nice Mandy! I’m with you! I love my coffee in the morning! =)

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        I don’t just love my coffee in the morning. I also love it at mid-morning and afternoon…

  2. Tony Promo

    I put this in the suggestion box… then Mike and Brett didn’t make eye contact or speak to me for a week. I think they recognize my handwriting.

    It’s a novel idea, but this isn’t Spain and I’m sure siestas aren’t going become a part of American work culture any time soon. Maybe if you work for some super-progressive company, but those are few and far between. PLUS… in 724 we don’t have time to even think about naps, let alone take one!

    *except for that time a few weeks ago when I passed out on my office floor for like 45 minutes.

    • Rachel

      Yeah, there’s a big taboo in the U.S. that sleeping during the day makes you a slacker, even though a lot of other cultures find the midday nap to be perfectly acceptable. And the way the work day is set up can make it impossible for many people to maintain a good sleep schedule–like doctors, or traders on Wall Street, or factory workers on the night shift. As you suggest, a lot would have to change in American work culture before something like a siesta would really take hold. But hey, we can dream, right? :)

  3. Scooby

    I want a EnergyPod- i wonder what those go for!

    I feel as though napping is a band aide that can disguise a root problem- the lack of quality sleep the night before. I bet if there was a study that forced those same participants to sleep for at least 8-9 hours the night before their productivity would be even better than that of the incremental increase from the nap.

    • JPorretto

      Perfect! We’ll start an hour later then!

    • Rachel

      You can get an EnergyPod of your own for just one low price of $8,000! Or at least that’s what the Internet tells me. Totally reasonable, right? :)

      Yeah, napping can get you through a bout of fatigue, but a good night’s sleep is the best way to go. That being said, a combination of each person’s biological clock, circadian rhythm, and various chemicals in the body do make us naturally drowsy in the afternoon. So it’s not ALL dependent on how much sleep we get at night–but I definitely agree, sleeping well is the best option!

    • Amanda

      I agree Scooby! The real trouble is lack of sleep at night. =( It’s sad, people today are so stressed and overwhelmed, they have to use some of their sleep time to get things done. Such a bad cycle Americans have gotten into.

  4. JPorretto

    What an amazing first post! Naaaaiiiled it.

    So what I’m getting from this is that we’re taking working lunches at our desks and then taking 30 minute naps? Sounds like a plan!

    • amy

      When I was first getting used to the schedule, I seriously thought about working through my lunch and going out to my car to rest for 30 minutes LOL.

    • Rachel

      That’s definitely what a lot of people do! And it’s what places like MetroNaps and YeloSpa want you to do, preferably if you pay them to use one of their comfy chairs, instead of making a blanket nest under your desk or something. :)

      And thanks, Jeff!

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    I agree, Rachel — it’s time to inaugurate mandatory, mid-afternoon power naps here at QLP. That IS what you’re suggesting, right? ;)

    Seriously though — excellent debut post! I saw a NOVA special (or some program like that) on sleep deprivation about a month or two ago, and they actually featured the MetroNaps service in Manhattan. Seeing nine-to-fivers taking naps in the middle of the day inside large egg-shaped structures was somewhat surreal to see at the time, but now I have a better understanding of how important it really is.

    There should be a napping facility on every street corner.

    • Rachel

      Hah–I wouldn’t say I’m *suggesting* it, just putting it out there … ;)

      And thanks! I’ll have to look for that NOVA special; I’m fascinated by all this sleep stuff. And I totally agree about napping facilities on every corner. Maybe the answer to the struggling economy is to stimulate the napping industry! :D

  6. amy

    I’ve never been a “napper”, so I feel like I’d waste the 15 minutes trying to get comfortable and turn off my thoughts. However, my sister is a huge promoter of naps so I guess they effect people differently.

    To battle through my “2:30 feeling” I switch tasks or find an excuse to walk around cubeville. Going to the kitchen to clean out my coffee mug and throw away wrappers is usually all that’s needed to wake me up.

    Super post Rachel! Can’t wait to read more from you in the future :)

    • Rachel

      I love naps, but I’m totally not good at following the guidelines I wrote out … like you, it takes me 15 minutes just to turn off my brain, and then I’d much rather sleep 2 hours instead of 30 minutes or less. But maybe after some practice, we’d both get better at taking powernaps. ;)

      Thanks for the ideas for battling sleepiness! I usually eat a snack or two during the day, so like you, I’ll totally use the excuse of throwing away a wrapper to get up and move around when I’m drowsy. It’s one of the reasons I don’t plan on ever getting a trash can for my cube.

  7. Amanda

    Super first post Rachel! Welcome to the blogsquad! =)

    This post is so interesting! I loved checking out your links and seeing how these nap centers work. I like the ones that include a short massage too–that would give me some nice rest & relaxation time! But like Amy, I’m also not a napper. I feel dazed and groggy, and usually get a headache after a nap, unless I’m sick….so naps wouldn’t work for me in the middle of the day. Maybe it’s because I almost always get plenty of sleep and sleep soundly every night, I’m fortunate I suppose. But I like the ideas behind the napping–for many people, it would increase productivity. They could take their nap and get back to work–instead of working slowing/inaccurately because they’re day dreaming about the nap. lol

    • Rachel

      I like the idea of a massage with my nap, too. :) And that groggy feeling you get is likely sleep inertia–maybe your naps are too long? Regardless, if you’re getting enough sleep at night, then that’s great! And also enviable, haha.

      “They could take their nap and get back to work–instead of working slowing/inaccurately because they’re day dreaming about the nap.”
      So true! And thanks for the welcome, Amanda!

  8. Jen

    Great first post Rachel!

    This topic is so great, everyone can relate. At some point everyone has thought about taking a nap at their desk or in their car. I know in college I would take a good 45 minute nap in my car between my second and third class. It was amazing! I always did so much better in my last two classes of the day.

    I catch myself zoning out at about 2pm and now I know why…IT’S NAP TIME!!! :)

    • Rachel

      Oh man, napping in college was the best. I looked forward to terms when my class schedule allowed for time in between classes to head back to the dorm and snooze. It really does make a difference when you’ve got afternoon classes coming up and you’re low on sleep!

      Thanks for commenting, Jen!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I was such a champion napper during college. Oh, I miss it…

  9. Jenna Markowski

    I could nap anywhere, anytime, so this sounds like a brilliant idea to me! I do have to agree with you though, if people (myself included) got a full night of sleep regularly this would probably not even be an issue.

    Excellent first post, Rachel! Welcome to the squad! :D

    • Rachel

      It really does come down to sleeping well at night and making that your routine. But a quick powernap can make quite the difference if you need it.

      Thanks for the warm welcome, Jenna!

  10. LK

    I’m not a big nap person either, but there are definitely times a quick nap in the middle of the day would help!

    Great post, this is some really interesting info!!

    • Rachel

      A midday nap can definitely give you a boost when you need it. Thanks Lauren! :)

  11. Kyle

    Congrats on the debut post, Rachel!

    This was a great topic and a fun read. I never realized there were companies that actually accepted naps in the workplace. I’m not much of a napper myself, but given an opportunity like that I’m sure I could adapt. =)

    • Rachel

      Thanks Kyle! And I’m sure we could all adapt to a quick nap during the day if we were given the opportunity. :)

  12. Jill Tooley

    Excellent introductory post, Rachel! :)

    If only QLP would initiate napping routines…that would be a nice break in the work day. However, I do kind of see where others are coming from; when I get enough sleep the night before I’m not usually tired until it’s close to my actual bedtime. Coffee is typically enough to get me through the day!

    I’d be interested to find out how many employees hit the snooze button during their naps and miss the rest of their shifts. If it’s an issue in the morning, why wouldn’t it be an issue in the afternoon? ;)

    • Rachel

      Thanks Jill! The snooze button issue is an interesting idea, for sure. I know I’d have a problem with that–I already do when I nap! Twenty minutes suddenly becomes two and a half hours … but maybe in a work environment, when everybody expects you to be back when you said you would, people would be more motivated to wake up on time. I guess there’s no way to tell unless we all start napping, right? :)

  13. Ness

    I don’t think I can just take a quick nap and then snap back into work…when I sleep, it’s for the long haul.

  14. Marisa

    I can only tell you one thing, school is not one of the places that accepts naps during the day. Although, you all probably know that.

  15. Jana Quinn

    I love naps. They’re the best. And it totally makes sense that they give you a pick-me-up and creative boost. Yes, the “average” work day is about 8 hours, but when you factor in commuting and all that, your true job-related not-relaxing time is longer than that. For those who can master the art of the quick snooze, this can be a real lifesaver.

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