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40 Winks at Work: Yes or No to Nap Time on the Job?

Editorial Team

Sleeping on the job used to get you fired.

But now some companies are actually adding naps to their list of employee benefits in an attempt to save billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.

Bloomberg Businessweek reported that companies where employees stay at the office past the typical eight-hour day tend to be more lax about napping at work. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, has a nap room with a lava lamp. Google offers napping pods, too.

“We need to recognize in the workplace that more, faster, more continuously is not better,” Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working!, told me. “And that part of helping a person in a world of infinite demand to be sustainably high-performing, is to value and support intermittent renewal across the workday.”

I checked out a nap room in New York called Yelo Spa, that features soothing lighting and soft sounds—for a segment that aired Friday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

I expected to feel no different after a short rest. If anything, I thought I’d be more tired. I expected to have difficulty relaxing, and I also worried about feeling drowsy when time was up.

Instead, I walked out surprisingly refreshed—even after only 10 minutes with the cameras rolling and other distractions.

Here’s what researchers know and what I learned: people who take just a little time each afternoon – say 10 or 15 minutes—to close their eyes and relax spend the rest of the day being more productive than those who tough it out and continue working, when their body is telling them to rest.

Our office at Women For Hire is open and small—and I’ve never been one to doze off at my desk or encourage others to catch 40 winks. But after looking at the benefits of a little time-out, I’m beginning to think that cultures where mini-siestas are an accepted form of life, or where a nice cup of tea and a biscuit mid-afternoon gives everyone a needed break from work, have something going for them.

What’s 15 or 20 minutes out of your day? Some bosses were strongly opposed, saying “I don’t pay people to sleep.” and “If you’re that tired, go to bed earlier.” Those same people are more tolerant of smoking breaks and idle chit chat, so why not a 10-minute snooze?

How to you feel about this? Should companies discourage or push naps at work? Ever fallen asleep at your desk? Let us know.


  1. M Craig

    Typo in the article at

    “I decided to give napping a try by visiting New York’s Yelo Spa, a sanctuary for mid-day catnaps. I checked into a sleep cabin with smoothing lighting and sounds to attempt a 10-minute snooze.”

    I think that you meant “soothing” lighting . . . not “smoothing”.

    Melissa Craig
    Washington, DC

  2. Delmar

    To answer your last question first, yes I have dozed off for a moment at my desk before. Sitting all the time and being in a lull at work adds to the feeling of wanting to take a nap, at least for me it does.

    I am intrigued by forward thinking and progressive companies who understand that we are living in a time where “business as usual” simply does not work anymore.

    I think it’s a great idea for the right environment; however, I do believe some people would take advantage of it to the point where it could ruin the benefit for everyone in some companies that choose to incorporate the idea.

  3. Crystal Tindal

    I think the mini-siestas can be very beneficial for employees/employers. With the day to day stresses we have in our lives, family, economics and health issues alone can cause fatigue, not to mention the demands of a job. I know from experience working in a claims environment can be very stressful and when I step back for a 30 minute siesta during my lunch time, I am not only refreshed but I work beyond my cut off time and I get twice as much done. I think some years ago Oprah referred to this as a “Power Nap”, and it does work.

  4. hannah

    A tired employee is not efficient. Living on caffeine is not a solution. With heart disease the number one killer among women, being able to take 15 to recharge and refresh should be something reinstated.

    And yes, I’ve cat napped at my desk and found myself more capable afterwards.

  5. Donna

    One of my employers used to come back to the office after going home for lunch and have a fifteen minute nap before he saw his next patient and said that it helped him the rest of the aftenoon. If he was not able to have his nap he would be very tired by the end of his work schedule. I found naps myself beneficial. I just did not do it on a regular basis. But now I think I will once I find a job and get back to work.

  6. Asha

    I absolutely agree with this suggestion! At least three companies when I’ve worked provided a rest/lounge area where staff could sleep, meditate, read. This area was “far from the madding crowd”, in a quiet and removed space conducive to relaxing and zoning out of the work environment. In the place where I currently work, the management is like the person who says that s/he doesn’t pay staff to sleep. I have friends who work two jobs and are desperate for this type of understanding and benefit.
    Companies stand to gain increased trust and loyalty from their employees by demonstrating their understanding of a basic human need.

  7. Not only can a brief nap “time out” provide a welcomed break from the intensity of the work day but it also gives our subconscious the chance to problem solve. The fact is that we can only hold 3 things in our short term memory at a time which means that our resources are stressed beyond the point of productivity during the course of the average day. Taking a break allows our brains to sort, filter, regroup and move forward on the most important (not necessarily the most urgent) issues. In a time when creativity and innovation are critical,employers should welcome the break, as it will result in more productive, engaged and focused employees.

  8. Beth

    I agree that the little 10 minute nap is beneficial. I w would do this when needed during my lunch hour by going to my car which was parked in a well-secured parking garage which fortunately was not busy at that time and at mid-day the lighting was soft. I would set my cell phone to alarm in 15 minutes. Usually I would eat first (15 min), nap and take a 20 minute walk and use the remaining 10 minutes freshing up and organizing my afternoon work focus.
    I would also encourage women who are having the groggy stay awake issues to have their hormones tested and both thyroid tests even if they are not near the normal age for menopause. I have been a multi-job guru who paid the price by overworking my adrenals.

    Finally science has caught up with why a person who has perfect blood pressure, cholesterol, right weight-height range, or summarized has good general health had to take these naps to function? For people like me who regularly make themselves get 6-8 hours of sleep per night the statement you just need to get more sleep at home has no scientific merit. For people like me you have only solidified your ignorance. And if you don’t acquire this knowledge and apply it you may soon join us.

    Diet ,exercise, supplements…When this condition first surfaced I was in high demand as an aerobic exercise and weight trainer. Focusing on those things was not only my job but a way of life.
    However I am going to close on the note that energy boosting products now sold everywhere should sound an alarm for anyone over 40. These products used to only be available at Truckstop convenience gas stations are now at reputable grocery chains and by the case at Walmarts. When the masses are the market for this type of product I guess everyone is just staying up late for what…knowing they are putting at risk the job they are fortunate to have.
    Sorry, you’ll need to sell that rhetoric to someone who embraces responses that appear strong because they are simple. However your simple response has no support by medical evidence or the evidence in the marketplace. Let that dog hunt some where else. Attack the real root of the problem and increase you bottom line. Reduction of workforce, increase profit vs expense = an overtaxed workforce. While we can assume the responsibilty of the 3 employees you laid off when prior to the layoff we probably needed 6 instead of 4 to really run the unit without being so pressed. Please understand that regardless there is a price to be paid by the company and us all. You can’t hire more staff because consumer spending is down during a period of record unemployment while sitting on trillions of profit dollars. But I need to sleep more when I am at home. That response is a farce. Allow your overworked workforce a break with the nap as an option. If nothing else do it to increase your bottom line.

  9. Sonya

    I worked at a major company 21 years ago where there was a sleep room. The room had a reclining chair, a lamp and blanket. Also was a phone that dialed directly to security, in case you needed help (ex. illness). I used it during the time I was pregnant. There was absolute no problem and being that I worked in Marketing where it was constantly busy and high pressure, I was a very productive employee because of it. Now that I think of it, this company was on the cutting edge and I took it for granted. It seems that companies have developed a all work and very little rejuvenation attitude to the detriment of the bottom line and our economy. American companies need to wake up and treat the work force from a holistic perspective.

  10. 2gether We Build

    Having a cat nap seems fundamental to me.
    Our country is too bent on productivity and product instead of people.
    Why else would the economy be in the state that it is along with the majority of humanity being so rigid and frustrated.
    I think learning and acting upon the ability to rejuvenate one self by a little sleep is no crime.
    Now, some will rebel at the thought even the employees who need and deserve a break. Remember, this is a society based no pain, no gain scenario.
    Not love and flow.

  11. Beth

    I’ve been a napper for years and it really makes a difference. As a supervisor, I even created a nap room for my co-workers. 10-20 minutes goes a long way towards productivity and job satisfaction.

  12. Tajana

    In our hectic do-it-all-now-or-don’t-do-it-at-all American society, humans are mostly treated as “human resources” and “human capital” rather than colleagues or human beings that contribute to the company’s bottom line. With many multinational corporations having discovered that they can outsource jobs to countries where there is an infinite number of people yearning to do a job without breaks, the overall disregard for the employee is widely felt in corporate America.
    On another note, my father always took a nap in the afternoon, after getting home from his stressful job in corporate Croatia. When he woke up after 10 minutes, he got his second wind and spent time with the family until late in the evening.
    I hope that American companies embrace the siesta culture, for happier people and more productivity. The insurance rates would certainly drop, as there would be less job-related stress.

  13. Lynette

    OMG, for years I thought I was the only one. Since college my energy level has always dipped around 3-330pm. I can’t concentrate. I’ve changed my diet (no carbs at lunch), I’ve chugged coffee, I’ve even retreated to the ladies room to close my eyes for five minutes while sitting on the toilet. When I had an office I could close the door and put my head down, but as you know more of us are working in cubicles now. I wish companies would embrace a 10-15 minute sleep room. Employees would definitly be more productive, and perhaps there’d be less accidents on the roads for those same employees who drive to and from work.

  14. Dorothy

    Yes, definitely. I have my own home based business. I always have a 20 min nap in the afternoon. My eyes droop, my mind and body with them. I put on a meditation tape, and go deep into REM sleep. Come out of it naturally, energized to continue through the evening, get up early at 6 am with NO alarm.

  15. Aimee

    I can’t tell you how many times I became stuck on a problem at work, dozed off in frustration at my desk – head in my hands – and woke up 5-20 minutes later with a solution.

    I never respond to things like this, but I’ve always believed in the power nap and HAD to write in on this topic.

    I’ve told anyone who will listen, that when I have my own company, there will be a time of day when no one is to disturb anyone who looks like they’re snoozing. It’s way more constructive and healthy than snacks or coffee!

  16. PAH

    I rarely ever got sleepy @ work because there was always something to do, but some of my co-workers did & they are still w/ the company – I was laid off! That could be why!

  17. Taking an afternoon break to recharge is not only a smart thing to do but also a productive thing to do. People are at their best when they feel their best.

    Nap time on the job is really nothing new. My grandfathers were both farmers. Taking a short rest of 30 – 45 minutes was common practice for them and other farmers of their generation. A rest might have been a short nap or relaxing in a favorite chair to catch up on news in the newspaper. These men were faithful about taking a rest before getting back to running a business.

  18. TGE

    Yes it is true, a short nap is great. Where I use to work (currently unemployed and back in college) I took the 40 winks and the rest of the day was better, less stressful, and more productive. High stress jobs like customer service where the customer is wanting everything for nothing, workers are stressed out at the end of the day, most do not last the first year. Maybe a short 40 winks (10-20 min) rest of peaceful bliss is a good thing.

    Will I work in a high stress job again – maybe, as long it is in an industry I enjoy.

  19. Sandra D

    I have nodded at work when we have had to sit through training where there is a lecturer. Also, many people will nod off at work & sleep for hours on end, but management does not say anything. This contributes badly to morale in the office. Like everything else, we have a number of people who take advantage and do not perform their work leaving what they do not get done to others. I welcome it and would like to be able to take a 10-15 minute nap but it would have to be controlled.

  20. I lived in Taiwan a while back and napping at lunchtime was the norm, as was a six-day work week (half days on Saturdays). Most office spaces were open format and at lunch time, folks would eat their lunch in the first 20-30 minutes of their lunch break, then turn off the lights in the office and nap at their desks for about about 20 minutes. In fact, it was borderline rude to call or visit an office during lunch time because you could potentially be disturbing nap time.

    I have always been a nap advocate – my energy is better in the morning and I am generally sluggish in the afternoon. I feel recharged for the afternoon when I am able to take 15 to 20 minutes midday. I haven’t always worked in cultural environments where naps were condoned, but I have been fortunate enough to have the privacy where I could surreptitiously get my winks.

    Not only have studies shown that napping is good for you, it feels good. How many things can you say that about?

  21. Mary

    This is such a needful discussion! As a 50-something young woman going thru the rigors of menopause, so many changes are happening in and to your body at one time or in such rapid k succession, that you often can’t prepare for how or what you’re going to feel! Yesterday, my tolerance for medication was phenomenal…I could take anything, work all day, attend church in the evening, come home and go to bed and start all over again with no problem. Today, everything makes me groggy (go figure)!

    I’ve chalked it up to hormonal changes and…What’s a gal going to do? You go with the flow until you find treatment options (all natural is the only way to go as far as I’m concerned) for you.

    No sooner than I conquered the hot flashes with soy (if I may shamelessly plug for an exceptional product – Revival Soy), the Sleep Apnea monster shows up. Even with my insurance “supplement” (next to nothing medical coverage), I can’t afford the Sleep Study and/or the equipment and/or the surgery that I need to correct the Apnea. I stop breathing several times during my sleep at night, wake up and stay awake for quite some time and then back to sleep. And the pattern repeats all night long. I don’t think I need to tell you how rest broken I am, the next morning!

    Cat naps used to make me feel 100 times worse than I did before I took them. But with the onset of menopause, they work wonders!!!

    My job doesn’t pay much, but I sure thank God for small favors such as understanding superiors and coworkers, who allow me a little extra time to nap, during break time. (My breaks are 15 minutes and lunch is 30). Rather than eat most days, I cat nap for 20 to 30 minutes. It’s the only way I get thru the day without slamming my face forehead first, onto the desk in a sleep deprived stupor!

    I’m doing my best-est to get to a level of self-sufficiency in my home based business. The only time I’ll have to get up at 4:00am then is when I want to – not because I have to! But in the meantime, yes, Yes, YES to Nap Time. If my employer had to pay me for all of the hours I’ve shown up early, worked thru lunch and stayed late (all voluntarily), they’d be up to their eyeballs in debt! Count the extra 5 or 10 minutes that I sometimes take during break and lunch, as a down payment on all those unbilled hours!

  22. K.O.

    Would it be beneficial? Possibly. However at nine months pregnant I have gone this entire period without taking a single nap at work. I have done makeshift ergonomic changes to my desk to accommodate my growing abdomen, and have done all I can to avoid taking time off or doing things differently because of my pregnancy.

    I will add that while I think it would be nice if employers took measures to take better care of their employees – not just breaks, but healthier snack alternatives than the vending machine, or even a reasonably comfortable chair in a break area – we’re being asked to do a lot more work with a lot less in the way of resources than in previous years. While some employers may think progressively about those sort of things, understand there are some companies stuck in a mindset, and anything outside of that mindset is just not up for discussion.

    So, while it would be nice to have a break – not even necessarily for a nap – it’s not something I’m expecting to see take on widespread acceptance. I’m just hoping for a reasonably quiet spot in which to pump when I return from maternity leave, and that the powers that be will understand.

  23. CH

    The Japanese have been doing it for centuries. Who’s workforce is more successful at turning out ideas for products (tech gadgets) for which Americans shell out mucho dinero? Yep! The Japanese! (p.s. My co-worker from Taiwan naps everyday. She’s in her late 40s/early fifties, but doesn’t look it, at all.

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