SPECIAL IDEAS REPORT

Idea of the DayFriday, June 26, 2009

Nap at Work

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All of my friends nap at work, or so I recently found out. One, a paralegal, admitted to crawling under her desk just as George Costanza did on Seinfeld. An EMT confessed to sleeping in the ambulance he was supposed to be cleaning. A pre-K teacher falls asleep on the floor with her students during nap time instead of prepping for the afternoon. And finally, a consultant didn't even attempt to hide her snoozing once and was found with her cheek pressed to the keyboard, gripping a vente frappuccino. Across the country, Americans are battling to keep their eyes open at work. But should they resist?

Every couple of months, it seems, another article appears extolling the benefits of taking short naps. Depending on their length, naps are said to boost productivity, creativity, memory, and problem-solving abilities -- not to mention enhance weight loss, reduce stress, and lower the risk of heart disease. Naps are also said to be more effective than drinking caffeine for stimulating alertness. And yet, sleeping during the workday, for the most part, remains a taboo. Some employers turn a blind eye, but others aren't very forgiving. (The Atlantic Media Company, for example, states in its Employee Handbook that sleeping, along with committing a felony and possessing explosives on company property, is grounds for dismissal.)

Why not recognize what employees are already doing, or desperately trying to avoid doing, and not only allow but encourage short naps during the workday? What company wouldn't want employees who are alert, focused, happy, and healthy?

Some progressive sleep-aware companies, such as Monitor, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, provide nap rooms. Other companies, notably Google, offer their employees use of futuristic-looking nap pods. These ergonomic devices -- which are catching on in Europe and in a smattering of U.S. cities -- recline, provide partial privacy, play music, and gently wake you up with vibrations after a predetermined time, leaving you refreshed and ready to work. At $8,000 or more, however, the pods don't come cheap.

If your company can't afford its own pod and won't devote a whole room to midday napping, then perhaps employees could be allowed to equip their cubicles with a nest of sorts. Or if that fails, maybe your office can institute a nap perk on your birthday, as The Office employees did for Kelly Kapoor. At least you would be well-rested one day of the year.

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Comments (7)

Garment racks on wheels with hammocks strung up on them. They would have to be sturdier than the cheap ass one I got from Target. The ones they use to actually transport full racks of clothes in the garment district. Those. With hammocks.

Your idea is misguided.

The irresistable urge to sleep in the afternoon is a sign of low orexin activity in the brain. The orexin cells are sensitive to glucose, and high blood sugar curtails their activity. The way to solve this problem is to get people to lower their carbohydrate intake, not to institute worldwide naptime.

That would really make people more alert, focused, happy, and healthy.


Rhayader (Replying to: Heidi)

Don't knock it until you've tried it. It's amazing how even a 10-minute nap can refresh your mind. I don't see why the physiological reasons really matter much.

Many cultures embrace this, obviously -- siestas are a common occurrence all over the world.

me2too (Replying to: Heidi)

Heidi, I believe you, b/c I definitely feel much better and more alert when I eat a good breakfast and keep my lunches small. Just a Lean Cuisine and a piece of fruit, something like that, and a snack bar in the afternoon.

With that being said, if you're really, really having a tough time keeping your eyes open or concentrating during the day, please get checked out by a sleep doc. I am a young woman, and I don't snore, but even without the classic signs of sleep apnea--you guessed it, I had it big time. I wasn't getting enough oxygen to my brain at night! The tests and equipment are not a lot of fun, but neither is a stroke. It's a very under-reported/diagnosed problem, too.

The 15-20 "astronaut nap" is ideal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_nap

I use Pzizz's self-hypnotic recording and often supplement it with an espresso first for the "caffeine nap" hack as well.

I work at home and napping is one of many benefits from this style of work.

And I heartily agree, 10-15 minutes of shuteye gets me going again for a good afternoon of work.

Oh, great! We're supposed to "recognize what employees are doing anyway" and let them cat-nap. That's going to go over big in my company's refineries and chemical plants. I guess we could rig up a button on the control panel so that when their heads hit it the fire alarm goes off and warns the nearby residents to run for their lives ...

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