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Risk Management Bulletin


By March 1, 2011No Comments

The days of the eight-hour night’s sleep are gone for millions of working Americans. However, getting six hours or less of shut-eye just isn’t enough for most people to function well and safely on the job.

Losing sleep causes an array of health, safety, and productivity problems in the workplace. According to University of California, San Diego Professor Sara Mednick, a strategic nap is not only restorative, but can also make workers safer and more productive. Mednick, the author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, says a 20-minute doze resets the system and offers a burst of alertness and increased motor performance.

In contrast to caffeine, studies have shown that naps improve both alertness and cognitive abilities without interfering with nighttime sleep. As with exercise, naps help the body and mind recharge.

More and more employers are finding that permitting employees to catch a few ZZZs while they’re on the clock “is good for business and incredibly lucrative in terms of productivity,” Mednick points out. Employers who offer nap breaks consider them affordable.

The benefits become even more significant for people in safety-sensitive jobs in which rest can stave off accidents and injuries. Mednick points to one study which found that in some cases doctors working long hours made 700% more errors due to fatigue than those who worked fewer hours. Napping is also especially important for people who work changing shifts and rarely get the recommended amount of daily sleep. Taking a brief nap before heading to work can benefit shift workers.

Many companies support workplace napping, including Nike, Google, Cisco Systems, and Ben & Jerry’s. Some offer a quiet room with a couch or special napping pods, while others let employees strap on noise-reducing headsets and nod off for a bit at their workstations.

Longer working hours, longer commutes, and less nighttime sleep are making make the case for workplace naps even more compelling. Says Mednick, “There’s no way we can do without sleep. Science has not found a way to replace it with a pill.”