Sleep and Work – The Case for Napping

Sleep and Work – The Case for Napping

When is the best time to fall asleep? Probably during office hours.

In comedy skits, we watched yawning employees get reprimanded by their supervisors, desk-sleepers hit on the head with newspaper rolls, and some more unfortunate catastrophes, such as absent-mindedly dunking a nose on a hot coffee, becomes a trigger for laughter. But the lack of sleep is nothing to be laughed upon, especially in the workplace.

One can look back and recognize the Japanese philosophy inemuri, colloquially dubbed as “sleeping while present.” Here, the working demographic can be pictured as heavy-eyed, yawning adults in suits, falling asleep on stairs and trains, among many other places. But surprisingly, inemuri is considered nobly. The Japanese, known for their diligence, look at these daytime sleepers with respect. After all, about 39% of Japanese employees snag a 6-hour sleep at night. Inemuri enhances one’s reputation, portraying that endurance and labour led them to work more than their required hours. To be found sleeping on the desk, however, is shameful.

Sleeping on the job is a delicate subject usually frowned upon by everyone else in the workplace, until it became a trend. We don't know who started it, but what we do know that HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington is keen to promote it. In her 2016 book The Sleep Manifesto, she unleashes details that bring to light what we know as sleep crisis, or insufficient rest, which can lead to physical and mental damages, among many other disorders.

The truth is, companies have started the sleep-at-work discourse long before anyone called it proper. In the US, as Americans work longer hours than before, employers have become more lenient. According to the National Sleep Foundation, from the 1,500 people polled, 34% of the respondents said that their companies allowed them to nap at work, and 16% said that employers even have designated areas for rest.

One of those companies is Google. Its Mountain View campus is famous for what people call “Energy Pods” – white capsule beds which allow tired employees to crawl in, recline privately, and take their much-needed naps. Its maker, MetroNaps, dubbed it as “the world's first chair designed specifically for napping in the workplace.”

Image from MetroNaps

It is also expensive. Energy Pods are available for retail at around $12,900, but it can, alternatively, be rented out. Google reportedly leases theirs at $795 a month. But why the amount?

Perhaps one of the main selling point, other than its round, futuristic shape, is Energy Pod's zero-gravity position. It uses NASA's technology in its recline, giving the user the optimum resting position that leads to proper blood circulation all throughout the body. Inside, the Energy Pod comes with a Bose music system - distracting your ears from the office noise and giving you a set of ambient options to drift off with. The sleeping capsule also comes with a timer that wakes you up gently and readies your body for the rest of your work day.

Capsule sleeps are better than caffeine

You may have tried to ward off your fatigue with coffee, but it may not help you enough as compared to actually resting. Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life reveals that daytime napping has similar benefits as a full night's. A 20-60-minute nap, just in time for the stage-two sleep non-REM, boosts memory and information. If you go longer than 60 minutes, you'll enter the REM stage which is associated with dreaming - this improves creativity, processing and associative thinking. At best, says Mednick, is taking a 90-minute nap, which allows you to go through the full sleep cycle.

But if you don't have all the time in the world, especially at work, short naps with do. Any nap can improve alertness and perception while cutting through your daytime grogginess during your afternoon dip.

Afternoon dips are not the time to take caffeine, advises Jerome Seigel, director of the UCLA Centre for Sleep Research. Drinking caffeine late in the day may interfere with your body clock, forcing you to sleep later than you should. Instead, avoid caffeine late in the day; this will help your body get used to its normal waking hours, regardless of the number of hours you sleep the night before.

You may not have an Energy Pod in your office, but you can still get a quick, helpful nap by following these tips:

  • Settle on a quiet, undisturbed space. If there's none, wear headphones
  • Dim the lights. Close the curtains or wear a sleep mask.
  • Sit comfortably. Bring a pillow to support your body as you rest on your back, or lunge forward.
  • Time your clock around 15-20 minutes. Avoid over-sleeping, as you may wake up to sleep inertia.

Already awake? Take off your sleep mask, stretch your arms, and ready yourself for a more productive afternoon with a clearer, brighter perspective.