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Can Sleeping on the Job Really Be This Good For You?

on Friday, 14 September 2012. Posted in Mental Wellbeing

napping in chair sized

Obviously getting a great night’s sleep is essential to a good day’s work. However, research shows that sleeping on the job can also be good for business. Ever experienced that early afternoon slump at work, just after lunch? Well apparently that’s quite natural and in fact, could be the ideal time for a Power Nap!!

Whilst small children typically take naps in the afternoon, Western culture generally frowns upon adults who do the same. It must be said that this is particularly the case in the work-place. However, this conclusion is at odds with human biology. Most adults do experience a natural increase in drowsiness in the early afternoon.

We can conclude that an afternoon nap is not lazy. On the contrary, napping can make us more productive and more alert after we wake up. We can feel energised, more focused and have a greater sense of wellbeing at work.

Why Power Napping is so Good for you, and, the Boss

Dr Sara Mednick, is research psychologist at the Salk Institute at the University of California. Together with freelance writer, Mark Ehrman, she has written a fascinating book on the subject of power napping called “Take a Nap! Change your Life”. Mednick and Ehrman’s book contains analysis of studies of ‘sleepy workers’, including those working during the ‘afternoon slump’. It provides evidence that sleepy workers are:

  1. prone to have more accidents.
  2. are less productive.
  3. are more likely to have problems with health and morale.

It follows from this that any healthy way to reduce drowsiness on the job will benefit both employee and employer. Mednick and Ehrman argue that power napping in the afternoon should be an essential part of the work day. They go on to outline some of the many well researched benefits of napping:

  1. Increased alertness. Whether you’re on the road, observing market trends, diagnosing patients or interacting with clients, staying alert is the most important determinant of your efficiency. This can in turn provide a greater sense of wellbeing and possibly, even fun at work.
  2. Improved motor performance. All of us engage in tasks that involve co-ordination, whether we’re typing at a keyboard or operating machinery. A Harvard study demonstrated that the speed of learned motor performance is the same in nappers as those who have had a full night of sleep.
  3. Greater accuracy. Making mistakes cost time, money, energy and sometimes even people’s lives.
  4. Ability to make better decisions.
  5. Improved perception.
  6. Increased productivity. Businesses that allow their employees to nap have shown decreases in errors and increase in productivity.
  7. Reducing risk of diabetes. Sleep deprivation increases insulin and cortisol levels, which can raise the risk for type 2 Diabetes. On the other hand, napping after meals will build up your defense against diabetes and improve the way you process sugars.

When is the Best Time to Power Nap?

Studies have shown that twenty minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than staying asleep twenty minutes longer in the morning. Most people naturally become tired about eight hours after they wake up. Therefore, most people’s bodies seem designed for a twenty minute nap in the afternoon. It is possible to maximize the benefit youcan take from napping by taking your nap approximately eight hours after you wake up in the morning.

How long should I sleep on the Job?

Experts advise that a power nap should be between fifteen and thirty minutes at the most. If you sleep any longer you tend to enter the deeper stages of sleep, which makes it more difficult to wake up. Once you have woken, you often experience sleep inertia, better known as grogginess! Longer naps can also make it more difficult to fall asleep at night, especially if your overall sleep deficit is relatively small.

What about Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?

All that said, you still need our 8 hours of sleep at night. Don’t just think that a nap on the job is going to solve all your fatigue problems. Mednick and Ehrman’s books suggests that we need a power nap in addition to a great nights sleep!


Ross Thomson with Dr Kathryn Owler, Directors of Joyworkz Ltd.

Sources include:

Mednick, S & Ehrman, M. 2006. Take a Nap! Change your Life. Thomas Allen & Son Ltd: Canada.

Tips, training and resources

Staff training: Training for staff can motivating and help staff know that you care. Joyworkz offer a range of appropriate workplace wellness seminars such as "Standing Up to Stress" (which discusses the importance of good diet, exercise and sleep) that assist staff to be healthy and happy at work.

A wellness programme: Consider a workplace health challenge to get employees moving. If you need help getting started designing a made to measure wellness programme, consider Joyworkz SimplyWell™ package, which takes the stress out of designing a workplace wellness programme.

Visual prompts: Visual prompts in the workplace can be useful. For instance, the range of free Alsco Heart Health posters that encourage staff in healthy workplace practices.

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