Say Yes to Siesta

People are sleeping less and less. That's just a fact. Our way of life has become more demanding, and we have less time to sleep. In other words, it's just not high enough on our to-do list.

In 1942, the average person slept for 7 hours 54 minutes a night. But now, the number is 6 hours 49 minutes! Lack of sleep costs the US workforce $63 billion a year in lost productivity, so it's a real problem not only for employees, but also for employers.

Even though your people may not have enough time to fit a full 8-hour sleep into their schedule, you will be happy to learn that naps can have the same effects on your body as a good night's sleep.

The benefits are diverse, such as boosting memory, verbal abilities and creativity, and reducing mistakes, stress, blood pressure and the risk of heart attack. In a study from NASA, a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%!

These stats may seem odd, but they are explainable. In the animal kingdom, there are three patterns of sleep: monophasic, biphasic and polyphasic. As their names suggest, every 24 hours, a monophasic animal would have a long sleep once, a biphasic animal will have a long sleep and another shorter sleep, and a polyphasic animal will sleep a few times throughout the day.

Although most animals are polyphasic, humans are seemingly monophasic - we sleep at night and that's it. However, historians believe that humans are originally biphasic, and have traditionally had a long sleep at night, and then a shorter nap in the afternoon. That also explains why a lot of us feel that 'afternoon slump' in energy.

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So what made us move towards a monophasic way of life? The industrial revolution, with its noise and machinery, made it more difficult for us to sleep during the day. But the main issue is that industrialisation has also changed the way we spend our days - and it's much more difficult to get some sleep in during work hours…

Twenty-nine percent of employees report falling asleep or becoming really sleepy at work. So it's no wonder that in the past few years, more and more businesses have embraced the various benefits of naps and their positive impact on their employees. Google, Nike and The Huffington Post are just a few of them - but it doesn't have to end with huge corporations. Creating a healthy napping culture in the office doesn't have to cost big cash - and as usual, we have all the best tips if you want to give it a go.

1. Dedicate a room to quiet activities

Google may have nap pods, but most businesses can't afford to splurge like that. What you can do, though, is dedicate a certain area in the office (preferably a whole room, even if a small one) and name it 'the quiet room'. There, your employees can meditate, relax, and - you guessed it - nap. The room should have minimal to no lighting, and if you can invest in some acoustic insulation, it really doesn't cost that much. Just make sure to get some cosy sofas or bean bags, pillows and throws.

2. Provide sleep masks and earplugs

If you can't provide a quiet room, that's fine. As long as you have somewhere your employees can physically nap in the office - a bean bag is a great option - just get them some earplugs and sleep masks. This will make it much more possible to nap comfortably without any distractions. And of course, if you do have a dedicated nap room, they'll always come in handy.

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3. Allow working from home

If you can, giving your employees the option to work from home every once in a while will benefit them in two ways - they'll be able to sleep more (because they won't have to commute), and they will also be able to take a short nap in the comfort of their own home. It's a win-win.

4. Give your employees the option to go home during the day

Of course, this will only work for the employees who live close to the office. But if you don't want your employees working from home, you can allow them to take a break at home, and encourage them to use that break for a nap.

5. Introduce nap time

This is the most obvious option, but it really works. Just declare a certain time of day as 'nap time'. So anyone who wants to keep on working can do just that, but anyone who wants to take a nap between, let's say, 14:30-15:00, can do so with no guilt. It doesn't have to be 30 minutes - shorter power naps are great too. We suggest any period of time between 10 and 30 minutes.

Learn more about wellbeing in the workplace

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