To Nap Or Not To Nap At Work?

As happiness fans, we would go for a loud YES, you should nap at work if you feel like it. And if you’re smart about it.

During your average work day you might have noticed some recurrent moments when your energy seems to be draining. You might have blamed it on the food, the weather, on last night or simply on your horoscope. These are normal states that your body goes through and it’s best that you stay informed so that you don’t make matters even worse by pumping sugar and caffeine into your system.

Asleep on the job: Half of UK workers have nodded off at work

The Memory Foam Warehouse Team has recently advanced a survey, revealing that 47% of people have fallen asleep in the workplace, in the UK. Take a look:

  • 72% get less than seven hours of sleep a night
  • 31% catch up on sleep during their commute
  • 10% have been caught napping by the boss

Getting the work-life balance right can be tricky, but have you ever been so exhausted you’ve nodded off at your desk, in a meeting or even on the phone? According to a new survey carried out on behalf of Memory Foam Warehouse, nearly half of us have done just that – and two-thirds were caught in the act.

The poll found that 47% of people admit to dropping off at some point in their working lives, with most of these saying the experience lasted five minutes or less – although 8% said they’d napped longer than 10 minutes. If this sounds surprising, consider how many of us get the recommended seven full hours of sleep every night: according to the survey, a massive 72% of us get by on less.

This is despite the fact that most respondents seemed to be aware of the value of a good night’s sleep. 86% of those polled said they often feel they need more sleep than they currently get, and 47% say they’re less productive at work when they’re tired. Additionally, 29% of people would like to see sleeping facilities in their workplace where employees can catch up on some much-needed rest.

All this napping doesn’t go undetected, either: 10% of those caught snoozing on the job were rumbled by their bosses, although a luckier 34% were nudged awake by a colleague instead. The commute to work also seems to be a popular time to catch up on some shut-eye, with 31% of people saying they sometimes sleep on the bus, train or tube – at least, we hope they’re not napping behind the wheel!

Participants were also asked where they tend to do their sleeping at work – the most common answer was at their desk, although a considerable number of people manage to drop off while on the toilet!

Tom, aged 26, who works in PR, said he rarely gets more than six hours of sleep a night and in a previous job regularly napped on his commute from Manchester to Leeds. “I have occasionally woken up in York, in a bit of a panic,” he added. When asked if people work too much and sleep too little, he said: “Absolutely, but it’s the culture of young professionals.”

Lisa, aged 44, who works as an office assistant, said she finds herself falling asleep when left to herself in the office, despite feeling that it’s unprofessional. “It isn’t usually the company’s fault though that an employee is tired – it’s usually down to outside circumstances in my opinion,” she added.

Chris Vaughn, Sleep Expert at Memory Foam Warehouse said: “Although nodding off at work can be amusing to the people watching, these figures point to a serious problem: people simply aren’t getting enough sleep, and it’s clearly having an effect on their professional lives. “It’s astonishing that so few respondents manage even the minimum of seven hours a night, and we urge people to make a good night’s rest a priority.”

There is an even more serious side to the nation’s sleeplessness, with recent reports showing a huge rise in type 2 diabetes among UK adults – a disease associated, among other things, with inadequate sleep. Doctors and health experts are continually raising concerns about the amount of sleep people get in the modern world, and Memory Foam Warehouse reached out to some of them for comment.

What the experts say

Dr Peter Venn, Clinical Director of the Sleep Disorder Centre at the Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex, said we live in a “driven, high-performance society” in which people are often tempted to supplement real sleep with stimulants. He added that it is important to look at both the quality and the quantity of sleep people are getting.

“Disturbed sleep affects sleep quality, and one of the biggest causes of this is snoring. If you can combat these kinds of issues, then you will likely experience more quality sleep and therefore less tiredness in the daytime,” he said. Dr Venn added: “A scheduled nap when at work would probably help some people, but it is case-dependent. People need to have rest areas and to get away from their desks: they shouldn’t eat their lunch at their desk as this is not a rest. They need to allow themselves designated break time away from the workstation.”

Dr Rahul Mukherjee, Consultant Respiratory and Sleep Physician at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, pointed to a 2007 study showing that people who sleep for five, rather than seven hours a night nearly double their risk of death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular disease. “Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and almost certainly to obesity. Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite, it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods,” he added. ”

For the full research report pleases visit this link.

The benefits of napping at work

Dr. Lisa Shives, M.D., specializes in sleep issues. According to her, some of the benefits of taking naps are improved work performance, quicker reaction time, better memory, less confusion and fewer mistakes.

Also, researchers at the University of California Berkeley have successfully conducted a test proving that people who nap during the day have an improved learning capacity.

“Daytime drowsiness can affect mood, productivity, and creativity, but a brief nap may provide greater alertness for several hours to help improve attention, concentration and accuracy,” says David Neubauer, M.D., associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center.

He also believes that “sleep-deprived workers are also at greater risk for chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.”

Smart napping

Napping is serious business. You might think that everyone can do it, and they can, but it’s when and how they do it that matters. Rosalind Cartwright, chairman of the department of psychology at Rush University, together with Dr. Alon Avidan, the associate director of the sleep disorders program at UCLA, concluded that a power nap of about 15 to 20 minutes is the best choice you can make when you’re feeling fatigued, but only if taken between 1:00 and 3:00 PM in the afternoon.

Dr. Sara Mednick, sleep researcher and author of  “Take a Nap! Change Your Life”, tells us that the ideal napping time is that specific point in the day when REM and slow-wave sleep cross. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a stage of sleep characterized by the rapid and random movement of the eyes and it’s the deepest sleep stage. Slow-wave sleep (SWS), often referred to as deep sleep, consists of stage 3 and 4 of non-rapid eye movement sleep.

Try calculating the perfect nap time for you with this Interactive Nap Wheel.

Another thing to consider is where to nap. If your company has a nap-tolerant/nap-encouraging policy, that’s great! Maybe you even have napping pods or a napping room. Either way, you should opt for a quiet place and figure a way to simulate darkness.

Take a look at these 10 Companies That Allow Napping At Work and see if you can “steal” some of that napping wisdom.


If you’ve never tried it, give it a go this week.  Not because it’s trendy but because it’s a great way to improve your health and your productivity. And it will make you a much happier employee. If you’re already an experienced “napper”, tell us how it affected your life.

Also, here are some of the articles we enjoyed reading:

 9 Tips on Napping at Work
How Long to Nap for the Biggest Brain Benefits
Sleeping on the job: Why wouldn’t you take a power nap at work if you could?
Arianna Huffington: ‘Sleep your way to the top’
Sleeping on the Job: Should You Nap at Work?
10 Tips for Pulling Off a Nap at Work
4 research-backed reasons you should be allowed to nap at work

Image via under C.C.0 license