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Okay to Nap at Work? What Does the Law Say?

written by: Deborah Walstad•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 7/14/2011

If you've ever nodded off during a company meeting or laid your head on your desk to rest your eyes, you're not alone. About 34 percent of adults surveyed in a study by Pew Research Center reported napped during the previous work day. What are laws on naps at work and should they be allowed?

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    Taking a nap at work can give a boost of energy. 

    Employers in different companies view taking naps during the work day with varying opinions, from one extreme to the other. On one end of the spectrum, it can be looked at as gross misconduct and grounds for disciplinary action. On the other end, employers allow (and may even encourage) sleeping on breaks and believe it will increase productivity.

    While there is no set law about napping at work, company policies often dictate what is acceptable. Many industries and sectors prohibit employees from napping while at work, deeming it as unlawful. America has long been viewed as a hard-working country, with a lot of people driven to get an education and be successful in their careers. Being self-sufficient is good, but in too many cases individuals are left worn out, with too little time for quality sleep. Most working Americans get six hours or less of sleep a night, rather than the recommended seven to nine hours.

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    Against Napping at Work

    Many are against napping at work. Viewed as Unacceptable

    Although some companies have warmed up to the idea of naps, many have (and may always) view it as unacceptable. They would rather be seen as working diligently than passed out in the break room or office. Many industries set specific company policies to not allow napping, and even write-up employees found napping on the job. They argue that you're here at work to get your tasks done, not to nap the day away.

    Sense of Laziness

    There is sense of pride in many hard-working individuals of only pushing themselves further upon becoming tired. They view taking naps as being lazy and not working their hardest. They may look down on others that try to nap. This goes for employers as well; viewing work as a place to stay diligent, and sleeping should only be done at home -- despite the often long work hours making it hard to get enough sleep.

    Being Paid to Sleep

    Often a 15-minute nap or lunch break doesn't allow for adequate time to sleep. A workplace that schedules in naps has to figure out if it is going to be paid or unpaid. Paid naptime is not going to make sense to most employers, however it might be necessary for someone that works a night shift. This could go back to the idea of sleeping should be done before or after work, not during, unless it can fit into the work day.

    Inability to Sleep Anywhere

    Some employees may like the idea of taking a cat nap at work, but are unable to sleep other than at home or simply take longer to fall asleep. If taking a quick nap just doesn't work, they may opt out of the idea altogether. Although, taking a moment to lay down or rest your eyes could be refreshing as well.

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    For Napping at Work

    Naps can increase productivity and focus at work. Increases Productivity

    Studies have shown that tired workers cost businesses around $150 billion a year in lost productivity. In fact, a study done by NASA concluded that a 25-minute nap boosted performance by 34%. Naps are especially beneficial for workers that get less than eight hours of sleep a night. Naps can give them the boost to keep working hard and get tasks accomplished on time.

    Decreases Caffeine Intake

    According to the National Sleep Foundation, 32% of tired workers resort to drinking artificial stimulants to stay alert and focused. Full-time workers consume an average of three cups of coffee or soda per day. It may keep you awake until the caffeine high wears off, but a good nap during the day would be a much better way to recharge your mind, not to mention healthier.

    Improves Health

    Many countries still have a schedules siesta or nap time in the day. Studies have shown that not only is afternoon drowsiness part of the body's natural rhythm, but sleep actually is good for our brains. It improves focus, mood, and creativity to help you get work done. According to a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health, 20-minute nap three times a week actually reduces the risk of heart disease in healthy workers by 37 percent. Naps also boost the immune system leading to fewer sick days off work.

    Boosts the Economy

    Referring back to the fact that studies have shown that tired workers cost businesses around $150 billion a year in lost productivity, this drain includes a loss of health care costs and employee absences. Corporations that allow short naps at work report lower incidents of accidents and errors. Even if the work day is slightly shorter because of time taken out to nap, the improved productivity and focus pushes the employee ahead in their job.

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    While the concept of napping at work is not accepted at all businesses, it is increasing in popularity. A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 34 percent of individuals said their workplace permits napping on work breaks and 16 percent said that they have a place at work to sleep. Companies are more likely to allow napping if their workers are required to work long hours or late at night. Laws on naps at work need to be set by each employer based on the need and benefits he sees fit.

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    Sources

    Photos: Free Digital Photos

    ABC News: Why You Need to Take a Nap at Work, http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=2831235

    Salary: 9 Reasons Why You Should Nap at Work, http://salary.com/Articles/ArticleDetail.asp?part=par1589

    NASA: NASA Naps, http://science1.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/03jun_naps/

    Harvard News: Sleeping Your Way to Heart Health, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/02/sleeping-your-way-to-heart-health/

    National Sleep Foundation: Longer Work Days Leave Americans Nodding Off on the Job, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/press-release/longer-work-days-leave-americans-nodding-the-job