Picture this: Three o’clock rolls around and crawling under your desk for a quick snooze seems like the most attractive plan pretty much ever. Your eyelids droop. Maybe you plant a cheek on your mousepad — before the sound of feet padding down the nearest aisle jolts you from your catnap reverie. You get back to work, swearing you’ll start some new positive energy habits, grumbling about how if this was Google, there’d be a special pod where you could get some quick shut-eye, without judgment.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. The late afternoon crash is part of office culture for very real reasons, and these days, a number of high-profile companies are making nap time a part of the workday to help sleepy workers sneak in a little extra shuteye. Google, Facebook, Zappos, Apple, Procter & Gamble and Ben & Jerry’s, just to name a few, are currently participating in what used to be a purely preschool ritual.
And it’s no wonder: Sleepy employees are bad for business — literally. According to a 2011 study conducted by Harvard Medical School, American companies lose out on a whopping $63.2 billion dollars per year due to sleep-related “lost productivity” on the part of employees. That naturally means that organizations benefit from having better-rested workers, even if the cost is installing nap pods or a quiet resting room.
Although employee nap policies appear to benefit everyone involved, it’s worth asking why we’ve embraced them so fully as of late. Especially since, according to Dr. Robert Oexman D.C., the director of the Sleep to Live Institute, napping isn’t exactly a natural human condition.
“People who sleep well at night don’t have this need to nap in the afternoon,” he explains.
Why is snoozing on the company dime suddenly acceptable?
In some cases, it may be due to a culture that promotes longer hours and a work/play/sleep dynamic in the office. At Capitol One Lab in San Francisco, architects from Studio O+A created an elevated sleeping nook not unlike a treehouse that can be accessed by ladder. It’s there in part, noted an article in sf.curbed.com, “to catch stumbly app designers crashing at the end of sleepless ‘hackathons’ that can last up to two days.”
“I love the idea that companies are addressing sleeping issues and their putting these nap pods in,” Dr. Oexman says, explaining he’s in favor of allowing employees to go into a quiet area and nap. But he says there’s a difference between an employee who has good nighttime sleep habits and just loves to recharge in the afternoon and one who is too tired to make it through the day without dozing. For the latter, office nap time is a Band Aid approach when what’s needed is a tourniquet.
The fight against office fatigue has been perhaps most famously fought by Arianna Huffington, who instituted nap rooms at Huffington Post after she collapsed one night on her desk from exhaustion and broke her cheek bone. This led to a “stress less, live more” mandate and a shift in corporate culture.
“What we ought to be promoting is healthier work behavior — not working 12 or 15 hours every day,” he says. If companies really want to help employees feel better-rested, they might better focus their efforts on creating a work-life balance so that workers can spend an optimal amount of quality time between the sheets at home. “That’s the more appropriate way to sleep,” Dr. Oexman shares, “to consolidate our sleep at night and not have this fragmented sleep approach.”
All Naps Are Not Created Equal
None of this means that napping should be off limits, or that companies who offer up a little shut-eye in their employee package have a nefarious agenda. Dr. Oexman makes clear that people who struggle with sleep issues like insomnia shouldn’t nap during the day, but individuals in professions that might cause them to be up late at night — like surgeons, or truck drivers — might benefit from some snooze time to re-energize and focus.
But what if you sleep well at night, but still love your daily disco nap? Go for it. “I just don’t think we should use napping as a crutch,” Dr. Oexman cautions. “We shouldn’t use it on a regular basis to solve the problem that we don’t get regular quality or quantities of sleep at night.”
Tips for Napping at the Office
Okay, snoozies, take note: If you’re going to get a little office shut-eye, keep it to about 20 minutes. “What happens if you sleep an hour is that you get into deeper stages of sleep, and then you kind of wake up and have that hangover effect,” says Dr. Oexman. By limiting your nap time, you’re going to keep yourself from sinking too far and feel refreshed — instead of groggy — when you wake up.
Pro tip: When you’re just passing out for a quick doze, don’t worry about blocking out all light and noise. But when you’re trying to turn in for the night, that’s another story that we’ll get to in a sec. And don’t forget to set an alarm! Dr. Oexman stresses that naps are no substitute for a solid night’s sleep. If you think maybe you’re not getting all your Zzzs, then consider these tips. Sweet dreams!
Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
1. Sleep long and hard. Six hours is just not enough. Aim for seven to nine hours a night in order to truly be well-rested when you wake up. One thing to keep in mind? Your alarm should be a reminder to wake up — not something that jars you out of dreamland. When your body has had enough downtime, you should start to stir naturally on your own.
2. Go cave-mode in the bedroom. When you go to sleep, ideally you want the bedroom to be totally dark, noiseless and nice and cool. If that sounds totally unrealistic, don’t worry: There are sleep hacks to make it easier. Pop on an eye mask, turn on the fan and consider investing in a white noise machine — in combination, these tweaks can really improve the quality of your snoozing, leaving you more refreshed in the morning.
3. Be consistent about your bedtime. Maybe you haven’t had a bedtime since the eighth grade, but it’s time to go retro on that. By going to sleep at the same time each night, you’re training your body into better habits and improving the quality of your sleep. Bonus: Eventually, you’ll barely even need that alarm.
4. Have a mattress honesty moment. Not comfy? That could be affecting your sleep. Make sure you’ve got the right “sleep equipment,” as Dr. Oexman calls it, which includes pillows tailored to your sleep position and a mattress that supports your body properly.
Do you take naps at work? Tweet us and let us know at @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty Images and Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)