A Guide To Napping at Work

asleep at desk

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If you’ve ever felt yourself on the verge of nodding off during the workday, you’re not alone. Around 70% of Americans report being regularly sleep deprived (1), and that comes at a price. Loss of sleep decreases workplace productivity. Efficiency, accuracy, and safety are all affected. Unfortunately, mistakes in any of these areas can be expensive and dangerous.

Napping at work can help avoid these negative outcomes. Some cultures have a siesta (Spain) or riposo (Italy), a daily mid-afternoon work break when many employees take a quick snooze. In China and Japan, napping on the job is also encouraged. Japanese daydreaming or sleeping at work, inemuri, is a sign of dedication to work so great that it’s exhausting.

However, in the United States, employees are a lot less likely to nap at work. Only 26% of employees (2) whose employers don’t permit napping or who were unsure if their employers allowed naps would actually nap if it were allowed. Some workers feel they simply have too much work to do and taking a nap will only put them further behind. There is also the stigma that needing a nap means you’re lazy.

That said, napping during the workday in the United States is a growing trend. About 34% of U.S. companies allow their employees to take naps during breaks at work. This is likely because napping has many benefits. By resting up during the workday, employees can:

Nap in the Early Afternoon

Timing your nap is key to getting the most mental and physical benefits. Aim to take your workday nap in the early afternoon, around 2 p.m. (8). This post-lunch time is when people feel naturally sleepy. You don’t want your nap to be too late in the day, or you risk being unable to fall asleep at night.

Keep Your Nap Short and Sweet

The ideal length of a power nap is between 15 and 45 minutes. Most people feel their best after naps that are 15 minutes (9) or 20 minutes (10) long. This gives you enough time to go through stage 1 sleep and into stage 2 sleep (11). These are two stages of lighter sleep before stage 3, a deeper sleep that’s harder to wake up from (12).

With a few exceptions, most people shouldn’t nap longer, or they risk waking up and feeling groggy and unrested. Extended shift workers, such as overnight nurses working 16 hours, can benefit from a two-hour nap during the night (13).

Find the Right Location to Nap

A cool, quiet, and dark (14) space is best for sleeping. While your bedroom is an ideal location, you probably won’t have room for a mattress in the workplace. Instead, see what spaces already exist.

If your company has a designated nap space, find out how to reserve it. These spaces range from sleep rooms with beds to napping pods.

At other workplaces, you may have to improvise. In a private office, you can draw the curtains and turn out the lights. If there’s room to lie on your office floor, consider stashing a pillow to lay your head on. You might also feel comfortable reclining your desk chair or napping with your head on your desk. Alternatively, take a walk to your car and recline there.

Scheduling yourself as “busy” on your work calendar may help you avoid interruptions during your nap. You can also put a sign on your office door stating when you’ll be available again.

Use Sleep Accessories to Help You Relax

Getting shut-eye at work can feel uncomfortable at first. Stash some sleep accessories in your office to help you relax:

  • An eye mask is a great way to block out excess light.
  • Earplugs can eliminate noise.
  • Turn on your desk fan to use as a white noise machine.
  • A pillow or neck pillow may provide cushion and support.
  • A blanket provides warmth and a sense of comfort.
  • A soundtrack with music or a guided meditation can make it easier to drift off.

Make Sure It’s a Power Nap

For a power nap, you want to fall asleep quickly. Set the stage for sleep by creating a workplace nap routine. Get in the habit of sleeping in the same location. Use the same sleep accessories each time and make sure to set aside your phone.

Try to avoid hitting snooze after your alarm goes off. When you wake up, doing something active can help your body know naptime is over.

A quick daytime nap can give you the boost you need for the rest of the day. Afterward, your brain and body will likely feel more refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of your workday.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31390041/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/2008_POLL_SOF.pdf?x25214 Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8899936/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20176120/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20421251/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28899546/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25668196/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26016658/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9694306/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10380949/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16124661/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  12. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/patient-caregiver-education/understanding-sleep Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31087442/ Accessed on March 10, 2021.
  14. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-a-sleep-or-wakefulness-disorder Accessed on March 10, 2021.