Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Should You Encourage Sleeping on the Job?

The next time you catch an employee sleeping at their desk, you might want to thank them instead of firing them.

That little siesta could make them mentally sharper, more productive, and better able to tolerate stressful clients.

In our sleep-deprived world, a growing body of scientific evidence (like this study and this one) reveal the emotional, mental and physical benefits of a midday nap.

That’s why top firms in other countries – and even some forward-looking law practices here in North Carolina – encourage workers to recharge their batteries by napping. Some even create quiet rooms in their offices for a quick snooze, meditation, or just to chill out.

“While the jury’s still out on the benefits of the company ping pong table, there is one activity that costs nothing, is accessible to every employee and has been scientifically proven to boost performance,” according to this article in FusionHealth. “That activity is napping.”

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
One in three American workers gets less than six hours of sleep each night (the recommended minimum is 7-9). That means you’ve got some zombies are stalking your halls. This sleeplessness costs US businesses $63 billion in lost productivity annually.

The solution may be as simple as forty winks – which for a stressed lawyer may only require 10 minutes or less.

“Learning, memory, reaction times, communication and motor skills are all significantly boosted by a short midday nap,” according to this source. “The positive effects of an extended snooze, from 30 to 60 minutes, are even greater and persist over a longer period of time, up to 6 hours after the nap, due to time spent in deeper phases of non-REM sleep. For the especially busy professional, even very short naps, of 7-10 minutes, can substantially increase alertness.”

For your consideration:

  • Naps as short as six minutes can improve one’s ability to recall facts – a handy skill in the law office.
  • Motor skills like keyboarding and typing are improved in just 20-30 minutes.
  • Nap a little longer (30 to 60 minutes), and you’ll make better decisions.
  • In this study of astronauts and military pilots, NASA found a 40-minute nap boosted performance 34 percent and alertness an astounding 100 percent.
  • And this study found that a 90-minute nap conferred many of the cognitive benefits of a full eight hours of sleep.

“Regardless of nap length, these broad improvements in cognitive function translate into measurable productivity gains over the course of the workday,” says FusionHealth. “In fact, napping has been shown to directly increase the performance of physicians, nurses, pilots, air traffic controllers and professional drivers, regardless of work schedule.”

But that’s not all. Naps heal the body as well as the brain. Regular naps have been shown to boost the immune system, thereby reducing the frequency of illness (and absenteeism). Napping at least three times a week cuts the risk of death by heart attack in half. Other benefits include lower blood pressure, fewer panic attacks, and more regular heartbeats.

Two caveats: Longer snoozes (45 minutes or longer) usually produce a short period of “sleep inertia” immediately after waking up. And if you’re experiencing insomnia or depression, a midday nap may worsen your symptoms.

Three Takeaways for Your Practice

Even if you’re not ready to invest $13,000 for a MetroNap Energy Pod, here are some simple steps you can take right now to promote wellness in your office:

  1. Encourage healthy habits. Offer free gym memberships. Stock the fridge with nutritious snacks. Provide literature on diet, sleep and exercise.
  2. Reward healthy behaviors. Make it fun by keeping a chart in the breakroom to track everyone’s progress. Offer mental health days. Encourage short breaks during the day to clear the mind and refresh the body.
  3. Set a good example. Show up as your best self. Display balance in your life. It starts with a good night’s sleep!


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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