What do Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci have in common? They were all brilliant, innovative people who all took naps. Increasingly, companies—particularly in the IT industry—are also waking up to the value of naps, and are even building their high-tech offices with womblike nap rooms and nap alcoves.
Naps went by the wayside during the Industrial Revolution, but in the Information Revolution, they’re coming back again.
Researchers have found that workers lose 11.3 days of work because of sleep deprivation, Greenfield writes, while drowsiness on the job costs U.S. businesses as much as $63 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Research has proven the benefits of napping on the job,” writes Rebecca Greenfield in Bloomberg Business. “Yet another study out this summer from the University of Michigan found that participants who took an hour-long nap weathered frustrating tasks better than those who didn’t. Science knows that the midday snooze produces all kinds of benefits, including improved memory, increased alertness, and decreased mistakes. There’s also some evidence that naps help with creativity and problem solving.”
In particular, naps help with “working memory,” which involves focusing attention on one task while holding other tasks in memory, according to NASA research. (Why does NASA research naps? Because astronauts, like Scott Kelly, have trouble keeping a normal sleep schedule.) Not only that, but as any parent of a toddler knows, naps can make you less cranky.
Among adults, anyway, naps are pretty popular—or would be if more companies supported them, writes Zahra Barnes for CNN. 66 percent of more than 10,000 people surveyed would take a quick snooze more frequently if their offices had designated napping areas, she writes. (Admittedly, this was research sponsored by a mattress company of its customers and fans.)
Companies that support naps include larger companies such as Zappos, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Google, as well as startups such as HubSpot, NerdWallet and Social Print Studio. “Napping has become increasingly popular in the tech industry, where developers are often required to work long hours, but where company culture hinges on creating a laid-back atmosphere in order to attract top talent,” writes Lisa Evans, a proponent of a separate nap room, in Entrepreneur. “Offering employees a space to catch a mid-day siesta is now becoming a common amenity for companies looking to position themselves as progressive, dynamic places to work.”
It’s harder, though, if your company doesn’t have a “nap culture,” Greenfield writes. “If companies really want employees to get the benefits of naps, the culture needs to support sleeping on the clock. It goes beyond the nap room—employers have to make napping feel normal.” Admittedly, some companies that have tried napping find that it doesn’t work for them.
If your organization has a problem with the word “nap,” no need to employ those loaded letters, writes Bruce Jacobs in BenefitsPro. “Take the approach of many companies and call it a ‘meditation,’ ‘quiet,’ ‘relaxation’ or ‘rejuvenation’ room.” More than half the respondents in a recent McKinsey survey said they wished their companies would provide such rooms.
Whatever you want to call it, here are four tips toward getting the benefits of napping for yourself and your staff:
- Due to your body cycle, naps tend to be best scheduled in midafternoon.
- Nap for no longer than 20 minutes, or at least 90 minutes, because that fits better with people’s sleep cycles. Sleeping for more than 20 and less than 90 minutes can make you feel groggy.
- Some people—most notably the painter Salvador Dali—napped holding a key or other object, and when their hand relaxed enough to drop it and wake them up, then they knew they’d napped enough.
- Others like a “caffeine nap,” where you drink a caffeinated beverage and then nap. By the time your nap is over, the caffeine has kicked in, so you get a double boost.
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