Workplace Wellness: Napping Benefits and Policies

sleep-deprivedWhile secretly hiding to catch a nap on the job is irresponsible and dangerous, banning napping altogether may not be the best idea either. For some shift workers, napping is essential. It can be extremely effective at eliminating fatigue-related accidents and injuries and reducing workers compensation costs. Although most employers do not allow napping in the workplace, a ban on napping may soon prove to be a legal liability.

Thus, efforts to make workplace policies nap-friendly may soon gain popularity as the issue increases in global significance.

A short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance. Nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap.

Types of Naps
Naps can be typed in three different ways:

1. Planned napping (also called preparatory napping) involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a
mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier

2. Emergency napping occurs when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in. This type of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery

3. Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each

Tips for Good Napping
• The right length: A short nap is usually recommended (20-30 minutes) for short-term alertness. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.

• The right environment: Your surroundings can greatly impact your ability to fall asleep. Make sure that you have a restful place to lie down and that the temperature in the room is comfortable. Try to limit the amount of noise heard and the extent of the light filtering in. While some studies have shown that just spending time in bed can be beneficial, it is better to try to catch some zzz’s.

• The right time: If you take a nap too late in the day, it might affect your nighttime sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. If you try to take it too early in the day, your body may not be ready for more sleep.

Benefits of Napping
• Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.

• Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day.

• Scheduled napping has also been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy.

• Napping has psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.

Negative Effects of Napping
• Sleep inertia is defined as the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep. While this state usually only lasts for a few minutes to a half-hour, it can be detrimental to those who must perform immediately after waking from a napping period. Post-nap impairment and disorientation is more severe, and can last longer, in people who are sleep deprived or nap for longer periods.

• Napping can also have a negative effect on other sleeping periods. A long nap or a nap taken too late in the day may adversely affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, a nap will only amplify problems.

Obstacles to Overcome
While research has shown that napping is a beneficial way to relieve tiredness, it still has stigmas associated with it.
• Napping indicates laziness, a lack of ambition, and low standards.
• Napping is only for children, the sick and the elderly.

Though the above statements are false, many segments of the public may still need to be educated on the benefits of napping.

Information from

Organizational Strategies On Napping
Kogi suggested rules of thumb for on-duty napping by nightshift workers:

• Facilitate the habit of napping at the workplace by encouraging it

• Select prudent timing in the arrangement of naps so that the workers can nap in turn during the midnight and early morning hours

• Provide a good sleeping environment in a quiet, dark, and air-conditioned area.

• Collectively plan the nap periods as part of multifaceted measures for improving shift-work conditions.

Sakai K, Kogi K (1986) Conditions for three-shift workers to take nighttime
naps effectively. In: Night and shift: Longterm effects and their prevention,
eds. by Haider M, Koller M, Cervinka R, 173–80, Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt
am Main.

Amber Brooks PhD, Leon Lack PhD

Thinking about taking a nap, but not sure how much napping will help you wake up refreshed? A new study finds that ten minutes may be the magic number when it comes to napping.

The study found:
• The benefits of the five-minute nap were similar to taking no nap
• Twenty and thirty-minute naps offered improvements up to an hour and a half after the nap, though immediately following these naps there was a period of reduced performance, sleep inertia and sleepiness.
• The ten-minute nap yielded the most benefits with the least side effects. This nap triggered improvements in cognitive function, sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, etc., and the effects lasted for up to 155 minutes.


Are you able to nap at work?
Are you a good napper?
Would a napping policy be beneficial?

Leave us your comments!


Additional Resources:

Wellness And The Shiftworker

Water: A Necessity In Maintaining Mental Health

Caffeine Awareness Month

Food, Mood And Stress

Daylight Savings Time

National Nightshifter’s Day

Stress Smart Shift Work


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Written by Beverly Beuermann-King

Building Resiliency Through Stress and Wellness Strategies. Stress and resiliency strategist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP, translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and more practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line stress and resiliency articles, books, e-briefs and media interviews.

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