Hey boss, I need a nap


Companies large and small have instituted employee wellness programs that include everything from smoking cessation to workout incentives. And a handful of innovative companies have instituted workplace programs to enhance their employees’ sleep and productivity.


The problem of sleep deprivation in corporate America is massive. According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of the civilian workforce—nearly 41 million American workers—don’t get enough sleep.


A growing number of companies have instituted napping programs for their employees, realizing the benefits that even a few minutes of shut-eye can provide.


“Workplace napping programs are definitely becoming more and more common.


Rather than the long afternoon siesta that some countries have, many companies here, realizing the benefits of a shorter nap in the late morning to late afternoon have implemented such programs,“ said Andrea Paul, MD, chief medical officer at Board Vitals, a physician-run company that provides board review tools to medical residents and attending physicians. Some companies even have a "nap room” or special comfortable “nap chairs,” she noted.


In a 2011 poll of 600 American companies, the National Sleep Foundation found that 6 percent of businesses surveyed had employee nap rooms, a 1 percent increase over the previous year. Astonishingly, 34 percent of survey respondents said their employees are allowed occasional naps at work, with 16 percent of employers offering designated nap areas.


Other companies are incorporating sleep-related programs into their employee wellness programs, according to a recent article in Human Resource Executive Online.


Clothing retailer Gap, for one, includes information on the importance of sleep in its leadership development program. And Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., provides personalized sleep coaching to employees referred to the center’s Live Well/Work Well employee-wellness program, which uses cognitive-behavioral-therapy to treat problems by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and thoughts.


Naps, however, remain the most popular form of sleep-related employer program. The Mayo Clinic and other experts agree the best time to nap is in the afternoon, when there’s a natural dip in a person’s circadian rhythm.


“A 20- to 40-minute nap can significantly boost productivity and morale in a workplace,” Paul said. “Even if not asleep, a 20-minute quiet rest time is really valuable psychologically to employees, especially those in a high-stress environment.”

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