Sleeping in the Office

on 06/07/2014

There were some articles in the press last month about how bosses should allow staff afternoon naps at work to boost productivity. (One example was the Daily Telegraphy, 5 June 2014).

But why should it be that we need to nap during the day, surely if we have the right sleep at night – the suggested eight hours sleep – everything should be okay?

The articles includes suggestions from Vincent Walsh, a professor of human brain research at University College London, that workers should be allowed naps in the afternoon and encouraged to clock-in whenever they want, to encourage a more creative and productive workforce. Talking at the Cheltenham Science Festival he continued on to say that most creative thoughts came during periods of relaxation when the brain is making new connections.

The good news according to Prof Walsh is that it’s not dependent on IQ or age, he suggests that it may be that you know more when you are older that you can make more connections and so could be more creative. So that’s was my Gran’s secrets to being a sprightly 90 something year old – her afternoon naps!

There are other health reasons for getting the right amount of sleep. Michael Mosley, in his article in BBC news magazine, writes about how he took part in an experiment to see if six and a half hours of sleep a night is enough (this is what the average Briton gets). He discovered that the different types of sleep we experience are beneficial in different ways, during deep sleep our brains, amongst other things, are moving memories from short-term storage into long-term storage which in turns give us more short-term memory space for the next day. On the other hand during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep one of the stress-related chemicals in the brain, noradrenalin, is switched off. This in turn allows us to remain calm while our brains reprocess all the experiences of the day

REM sleep happens more during the last half of the night which is bad news for people who are woken unexpectedly or, like me, have no problem getting to sleep but can wake up multiple times during the night which means that your brain may not have dealt with your emotions – which could leave you stressed and anxious.

I know I would certainly find benefit from the additional sleep during the day with my erratic sleep pattern. I normally find by mid-afternoon I could do with a snooze to re-charge my batteries and sometimes do this at the weekends!! However, I am not sure how feasible it is in the office. How would meetings take place internally let alone with external visitors if everyone had a different ‘snooze time’? What happens if there is a chronic snorer – won’t this disturb colleagues?

Where would people sleep? These days space is at a premium in offices so I have a picture in my mind of people sleeping at their desks. How does this work when visitors are brought around the office? How about chairs that can be converted into beds (a bit like cabin beds on planes)? Would people be bringing a sleeping bag in with them?

There are a number of companies which already have sleeping pods in their offices and a lot of other innovative office space for their employees, have a look on-line as there are lots of examples.

sleeping pods

Sleeping in the office is quite a natural thing in Japan (they have a word for it – Inemuri). Although, according to John Spacey (Japan Talk) this is related to the fact that people get respect for giving their best and pushing themselves to exhaustion so by being tired it says you are a hardworker. I hope we can continue to find other ways in this country for employees to show that they are a hard worker. On the other hand, there is also the long-standing Siesta, a short afternoon nap, often taken after the midday meal, in many hotter climates. So maybe it won’t be so hard to find a way to adopt this into the workplace.

I will be watching with interest as to which organisations start to make use of these ideas and how they provide appropriate places to sleep for their employees.



2 responses to “Sleeping in the Office

  1. Tirralan says:

    Well, I sure wish my job would offer sleep beds in the office and allowed for those much needed naps. I tell you, some days I could really use it. Nice article.

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