Sleeping on the job? Science says it’s a good thing.

Do you remember just how integral napping was to your childhood? Everyday, probably at the exact same time in the afternoon, you would be tucked in for a quick snooze. Whether you were vehemently unwilling or excited to take a break from all that running around, you always woke up feeling refreshed and full of new energy. But as you grew up, napping gradually got phased out in favor of recess, then longer lunch hours, and eventually the eat-at-your-desk or on-the-go routine many of us have come to detest.

Napping isn’t just for kids

Here in the west, napping is widely regarded as something children need to help their brains develop and their bodies recover from rambunctious activity. While this is certainly true, it doesn’t preclude adults from needing naps too. Most of us mask the side effects of early mornings, long days, and late nights by ramping up our caffeine intake, but research is starting to show that it’s far healthier for us to simply give in to our natural instinct to sleep during the day.

That’s right: afternoon drowsiness is instinctual. Regardless of whether or not you’ve had a full night’s sleep or a substantial lunch, your body is designed to require rest around 2 or 3PM. Some scientists believe we evolved this way to avoid being active during the hottest time of the day. Generally each afternoon, our brains begin to secrete melatonin, a chemical that makes us sleepy. Our core temperature drops slightly, too, which also happens right before we go to bed at night. It is therefore biologically evident that adults need naps as much as kids do — something many countries around the world have understood for centuries.

Why employers in other countries embrace napping

You’re probably familiar with the concept of siestas. Ubiquitous across Spain, Latin America, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Middle East, and other hot regions, the siesta allows everyone from students to store owners to take a few hours off each afternoon to enjoy a long lunch and rest. The Japanese also highly approve of sleeping during the day. In fact, contrary to how it’s viewed in America, napping on the job is considered a sign of being a hard worker in Japan.

Beyond cultural norms, there are many practical advantages of taking a midday nap, including:

  • Increased alertness
  • Higher productivity
  • Fewer mistakes, injuries, and accidents
  • Improved decision-making
  • Better stamina and resilience

How your workplace can harness the benefits of naps

For these reasons, a growing number of North American companies are incorporating napping as part of the standard workday. Google, Zappos, and PwC all boast dedicated nap rooms onsite, some even equipped with massage chairs and showers to help employees feel extra relaxed and refreshed.

If building a nap room is unrealistic for your organization, consider putting a comfortable couch in a room with low traffic and dim lighting. You might also offer your employees extended breaks so they can head home for a quick snooze if they live nearby.

Make getting proper sleep part of your culture

In order for your napping campaign to be successful, you must bake the importance of sleep into your workplace culture. Encourage employees to take time off when they need it, whether it be through unlimited sick days or offering mental health days. Moreover, unless it becomes a disruptive habit, try not to shame people for sleeping in. It’s better to encourage them to get the rest they need so they can feel as engaged and present at work as possible.

More ways you can champion employee health

We have several detailed resources on sleep in our digital employee well-being library, including content on optimizing sleep hygiene, understanding common conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia, and tips for parents to help their kids sleep better. Sleep and overall physical health aren’t the only topics we cover, either. We have expert-led videos, podcasts, and tip sheets on every subject that matters to your employees: from mental health and financial wellness to relationships and professional development, and much more. To find out how we can support your staff, book a free demo today.


Also published on Medium.