You know that feeling where you’re at work, maybe even in a meeting, and you simply cannot keep your eyes open? A growing number of experts and employers have come up with a brilliant solution.
Go to sleep.
The middle of a meeting is probably not the best time to implement this fix, but a half hour nap before the meeting could make all the difference in the world. NASA studied the effects of naps and found that “a nap of just 26 minutes can boost performance by as much as 34 percent,” ABC reports. The nap also generates a 54% improvement in alertness, according to CNN Money.
Dr. Sara C. Mednick, author of the book “Take A Nap! Change Your Life,” summarizes some more of sleep’s effects. ”I found it helps with memory processing, alertness, and learning new skills,” she said. “We live with less than our recommended eight hours, and that means so many things — decreased sex drive, decreased productivity, and fatigue-related accidents. Napping helps with all of these things.”
It’s no surprise that workers are tired. “Americans have the longest working hours in the industrial world,” reports Salary.com. “Most working Americans sleep six or less hours a night, instead of the recommended 7 to 9 hours.”
If you don’t get that performance boost, both you and your employer pay the price. “Studies show tired workers cost business about $150 billion a year in lost productivity,” health care costs and absences. Napping, in contrast, “improves mood, creativity, and focus, all of which may make us better employees.” It even reduces “accidents and errors.”
Some employers are so eager to reap the benefits of alert employees that they make napping facilities available. Nike has relaxation rooms, Google, AOL, and CISCO have napping pods, and Gould Evans Goodman Associates offers sleep tents. Zappos.com, Yarde Metals and Lippe Taylor also provide sleeping rooms. 16% of American workers say their employers provide a place to nap, and 34% say naps are allowed at work. Given the advantages of having well-rested workers, these numbers may very well go up.
Mednick agrees: ”I think it’s just like working from home. Years ago your boss would have thought you were crazy if you asked to work from home, but now that companies see the results and increase in productivity, it’s become more and more common. I think once companies start to see an increase in production and fewer sick days from napping, it will become more and more common as well.”
Not getting enough sleep takes a toll on individuals’ personal lives as much as on their employers’ bottom lines. “Twenty percent of adults say they are so sleepy that it interferes with their daily activities. Eighty five percent of 30-something women report feeling tired on a regular basis.” Some people are so tired it can kill: sleepy drivers cause 100,000 car crashes a year.
Those who do sleep during the day are healthier than their wakeful counterparts. “A 20-minute power nap three times a week can reduce the rate of heart disease in healthy individuals by 37 percent, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health.”
Naps may be so beneficial because mid-day sleep is built into our biology. According to the National Sleep Foundation, ”more than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for short periods throughout the day.” Some human cultures sleep this way as well, enjoying afternoon siestas. This may be a more natural pattern for us than sleeping in one phase and staying awake for the rest of a day.
One thing naps can’t improve is a person’s moral judgment: Lance Armstrong and Bill Clinton are two famous nappers.