9 Reasons Why You Should Nap at Work

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 17, 2012

1. You're Running on Empty

Workers of the world, come clean: Who among us hasn't laid our head on the table, dozed off on a conference room couch, or curled up behind our desk in the middle of the day? Don't feel guilty. You're not alone. The Pew Research Center reported in 2009 that about 34 percent of adults surveyed had napped during the previous day. We are an exhausted crew. Most working Americans sleep six or less hours a night, instead of the recommended 7 to 9 hours.

2. You're Working Longer, Getting Less Done

Americans have the longest working hours in the industrial world. Twenty percent of adults say they are so sleepy that it interferes with their daily activities. Eighty five percent of 30-something women report feeling tired on a regular basis. Chronic exhaustion means that despite long hours on the job, our productivity is less than optimal. 

3. Dozing at the Wheel is Dangerous

For those who drive to work, lack of sleep can be hazardous. Drowsy driving causes approximately 100,000 car crashes annually, with younger people being the most at risk. While getting a full night's sleep before driving is the ideal, taking a short nap before driving can reduce a person's accident risk. Experts suggest that if you're tired before you get behind the wheel, try grabbing a "caffeine nap." Drink a caffeinated beverage, recline your seat, doze for 20 minutes, and wake up ready to go.  

4. Catching ZZZs is Better than Coffee.

Most of us rely on artificial stimulants to power through the day, with full-time employees consuming on average 3 cups of coffee/soda per day. Caffeine enhances alertness and concentration. But its effects, if any, on higher cognitive functions like learning and memory are debatable. In terms of really recharging one's mind in the middle of the day, what most of us need, experts say, is a good nap.  
For night shift workers, however, researchers have found that a combination of naps and caffeine had the most beneficial effect. The nap-and-caffeine cocktail improves alertness and performance during hours when the body is naturally inclined to sleep. 

5. Naps are Good for You.

Napping is an age-old tradition. In many countries, workers still take a siesta in the middle of the day. Research has shown that afternoon drowsiness is part of the body's natural rhythm, not just a response to a heavy lunch.

Most of us agree that sleep is nice, but does it help our brains? Actually, yes. NASA research has determined that a 26-minute nap can boost workplace performance by 34 percent. Daytime sleeping improves mood, creativity, and focus, all of which may make us better employees.

6. Naps are Good for Companies.

Check out these companies that have shunned the stereotype of the lazy napper and integrated napping into their corporate culture.

  • Nike, the company urging everyone to "just do it," has relaxation rooms so its employees can periodically do the opposite.
  • Google lets employees snooze inside individual napping pods.
  • Zappos.com, features a “quiet room” with couches for naps. It previously had napping pods, but employees preferred couches, so the room was changed back.
  • Gould Evans Goodman Associates, a Kansas City architectural firm, provides "spent tents" equipped with pillows, blankets and alarm clocks.
  • Yarde Metals, a Connecticut-based metal manufacturer and distributor, has a corporate leisure room with a waterfall, off of which are four smaller rooms, equipped with leather recliners, where employees can stretch out 20-30 minutes at a time. 
  • Lippe Taylor, a New York public relations agency, has Serenity Rooms outfitted with large sofas, blankets and cozy chairs (cell phones and Blackberry's not welcome).

7. Naps are the Perfect Medicine

It turns out that napping makes you happy and healthy. A 20-minute power nap three times a week can reduce the rate of heart disease in healthy individuals by 37 percent, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. So, along with diet and exercise, make naps a part of your wellness regimen.

8. Naps Boost the Economy

Tired employees constitute a $150 billion-a-year drain on American businesses in the form of lost productivity, health care costs, and employee absences. Corporations that allow short naps report reduced incidents of accidents and errors, and claim that it's worth the slightly shorter workday, because napping improves overall productivity. So grab a pillow and a comfy blanket, and start improving your company's bottom line!

9. Naps on the Job - a Growing Trend.

The concept of napping at work is growing in popularity. Thirty-four percent of American workers surveyed by the National Sleep Foundation say that their workplace permits napping during work breaks; 16 percent report that their employer even provides a place for them to nap.  Companies that are most likely to allow napping include those that require employees to work long hours or those having late shifts.

Although the workplace nap phenomenon is growing, many companies have not warmed to the idea. The visual of people sacked out in the conference room simply doesn't fly with management. And indeed, for many of us, the concept of sleeping at work feels risky, especially given today's precarious job market. We would rather be seen diligently typing, not drooling on the keyboard, should the boss look in.  

But with so many Americans napping anyway - slumped against their walls and hovered over keyboards - isn't it time to call a spade a spade? Tired people will sleep, crouched behind the copy machine if they must. Companies like Google and Zappos.com that face this reality - and don't stigmatize their employees for being exhausted - might be well positioned to attract the best talent moving forward.