Power Naps for Productivity?

Many companies recognize the value of allowing employees to nap. Power naps help happier employees to focus.
OPEN Forum Contributor
March 30, 2012

Sleeping on the job might once have been frowned upon. These days, however, many companies recognize the value of workplace napping for its benefits to employees. Research shows that employees who are allowed to take a "power nap" tend to be productive, more sharply focused with improved memory.

They also have better morale.

Companies can provide spaces to nap, special napping equipment and designated nap times. Give employees the chance to get a little shut-eye. Zappos, for instance, offers a nap lounge for its employees with comfortable chairs, couches, low lighting and a relaxed atmosphere.

“Power naps are very rejuvenating," says Shannon Roy, who is the "happiness hippie" for Zappos. "You can really feel re-charged and ready to take on the day.”

Sleep 101

The best time to nap, say many experts, is in the afternoon, when there's a natural dip in our circadian rhythm. And a good power nap need not be longer than 10 to 15 minutes—just enough to get the batteries recharged and get us up and running for the rest of the afternoon.

Most of us need around seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If we get less than that, we don't function in the best possible way during the day. If we do have a slight sleep deficit at night, however, a quick nap during the day can go a long way toward making up for it.

“If someone is not getting enough sleep at night, napping can be a very good strategy for maintaining alertness during the day," says sleep specialist Thomas Balkin, chief of the department of behavioral biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

"A short nap can help if you feel sleepy after lunch, which is almost universally experienced to some extent in adults. With a full belly we feel a little sleepy. It’s a relatively minor effect—a little dip in the afternoon—and then alertness is restored.”

Balkin warns, however, that too long a nap—more than 45 minutes to an hour for most people—can interfere with falling asleep at night. He also notes that sleep inertia, or that feeling of being not quite awake for a few minutes after waking, can also hinder cognitive function until it wears off. Overall, however, there are few downsides to napping and plenty of benefits.

"Your productivity is going to be increased for the remainder of the day," said Balkin. "You’ll be working more efficiently and productively than if you hadn't napped."

The napping bottom line

Researchers argue that napping on the job just makes sense, both for employees and for businesses.

"Unlike computers, humans function best with periods of activity interspersed with regular breaks," says health consultant and napping advocate Thea O'Connor. "There's really no reason why a workplace shouldn't become nap-friendly and offer employees this simple, time-efficient, proven energy and performance booster. Especially when so many of us are tired, stressed and time-poor."

There are even companies, like MetroNaps, that provide services and products to help businesses incorporate napping into the workplace. These include a nap station called an EnergyPod and a sleep timer, facilitator and tracker called a SleepWing.

"Humans are pre-programmed for a midday rest just like all mammals," says Christopher Lindholst, co-founder of MetroNaps. "It is a normal part of our daily circadian rhythm." Research has shown that [naps are] beneficial to our short-term productivity and our long-term health.

And naps boost our performance. We have all experienced midday fatigue. Rather than waste time feeling exhausted throughout the afternoon, a brief nap will clear the mind and give you a fresh boost of energy."

Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio. Vivian blogs for Contently.

OPEN Forum Contributor