How To Make Your Office Nap-Friendly Because Sometimes You Just Need Those Zzzs
Naps are amazing. Kindergarteners have it all figured out: play hard, nap hard. And yet the vasty majority of our offices are not nap-friendly, despite the fact that studies have indicated that a bit of a nap during a hard workday can improve alertness, mood and short-term memory, all of which are pretty useful at many jobs. Napping at work has increasingly become more popular, though; the Guardian reported in 2017 that big companies like Google and Nike have installed sleep pods in some of their offices to help recharge workers, and there's a very long tradition of napping at work in Japan, where it's known as inemuri and is meant to indicate your devotion to your job. So how can you catch 40 winks at work without getting fired?
Naps aren't going to solve big sleep deficit problems; if you get permission to nap occasionally at work, that doesn't mean you can start staying up later and partying harder. Naps can only dent serious sleep deficit, not completely solve it. But a bit of a catnap at work may seriously help when you've got a long project to complete and can't focus because of sleepiness. Here's how to make it happen.
1. Don't Do It In Secret
Yes, it is immensely tempting sometimes to install a bed under your desk, pretend to have a "meeting" in a dimmed conference room, or snore against the wall of your bathroom stall. But you'll get further and have more relaxed sleep if you actually get permission for napping from your boss or HR rep. Schedule a meeting if possible, have the conversation honestly, be frank about what you want and why you need it, and be prepared for some pushback or negotiation on what they'll expect if they grant the request.
2. Have The Data To Back Up Your Nap Needs
It's completely logical for anybody hearing your request for a nap to want to know what the workplace in general would get out of it. "I'll be less cranky" may not be the most persuasive reason, so have other data to back it up. Go in armed with things like a New York Times article from 2017 documenting neuroscience studies on naps and performance, material from the American Psychological Association, and studies relevant to your own area — like this one on medical interns on the night shift. Demonstrate you're taking it seriously.
3. Keep It To Power-Nap Length
If you do get permission to go to sleep on shift, make sure you keep it to about 20 minutes. Any more than that and you risk waking up groggy, as your body will start entering deeper, REM sleep and will be more difficult to wake. That's not going to make you more alert and happier; on the contrary.
4. Use Earplugs And Avoid Caffeine
Maximize the possibility of rest for your naps by stocking up on the right accessories. Dim the lights, get earplugs, stay away from caffeine, get yourself something to cover up like a blanket, shut the office door (if you have one), and do your best to actually drop off.
5. Go For The Natural Energy-Drop Point Post-Lunch
Most cultures that incorporate natural siestas or rests during the workday focus on the post-lunch period, around 2 p.m., which is a good idea: it's a natural dip in the body's energy levels following a morning of hard work. You should schedule naps for around this time to maximize their potential to help your focus and efficiency.
6. Demonstrate An Improved Work Ethic With A Napping Schedule
If you get a nap, make it count. Notice what happens to your body and your mind after one and see how that can be turned to use in your workplace. Feel like you're sharper? Use the time post-nap to do some difficult thinking. Energized? Do something you've put off, or an office task everybody hates. Use naps to give yourself better results. But don't put off anxiety-inducing tasks until after a nap; you might worry so much about them you don't get any rest at all.
7. Dream Big With An Office Napping Policy
Naps shouldn't really be a special one-off or a privilege; if your workplace culture would really benefit from them in general, it's a good idea to work to get them on the official books, so everybody has guidelines and knows they're allowed. Work with human resources to develop an office napping policy and see if you can't get nap rights for everybody.
If you do it right, you won't need to catch a few precious minutes of sleep curled up in your desk chair ever again. Everybody deserves a nap once in a while.