The Future of Napping            

For some of us, especially those in retirement, catching a few Zs during the day is almost inevitable, if not a planned activity.  It used to frustrate me when my father sat down to watch a movie but was invariably fast asleep mid-way through it.  But as I near that same period in my life, I’m beginning to understand the importance of napping, for it is often difficult to maintain the same level of activity I had in my younger days without feeling a little fatigue.  And there’s no denying that a short afternoon nap is an excellent therapeutic.            

The reality is that napping isn’t just for babies and the elderly.  The benefits are multitudinous and include (1) improving memory; (2) helping your brain analyze data; (3) helping you maintain a high level of performance; (4) lifting your spirits; (5) preventing post-lunch drowsiness that lasts for the bulk of the afternoon; (6) relieving stress and improving immune health; (7) lowering blood pressure and (8) aiding with nighttime sleep (as long as the nap is short and combined with moderate exercise).            

Sleep deprivation has been declared a worldwide public health epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leading to upticks in diabetes, depression, obesity and cancer.  Yet the pressures of society often lessen the amount of time available for rest.  In addition, too many of us are missing out on sleep by choice, choosing to maximize our lives through wakefulness.  Fifty-to-seventy million U.S. adults suffer chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders.  More than 35% of those in a recent survey by the CDC reported getting less than seven hours of sleep each night (8-9 hours is optimal).            

This sleep deprivation has serious consequences in our workplace.  It is costing U.S. companies over $400 billion every year due to lost employee productivity and health insurance costs.  Some employers have the answer: naps.            

Napping may soon become a new employee benefit in many companies.  Drowsiness in the daytime negatively affects concentration, accuracy, mood and creativity, and these deficits may be averted by a quick power nap.  Google, Facebook and NASA are already offering naps to their employees during the work day to boost their performance and increase the company’s bottom line.  Once considered taboo, more and more companies are realizing the benefits of naps in this regard.  A 2002 Harvard University study confirmed that a 20-30-minute nap boosts employee performance at work, rebooting productivity to start-of-the-day levels.  Such short naps fit well into an employee’s schedule and prevent the grogginess resulting from a longer nap.            

In the future, napping will be increasingly good for business, sharpening your concentration, perceptions, creativity, mood and memory, while reducing absenteeism, on-the-job errors and healthcare liability.