Ever find yourself dozing off by your desk in the middle of the work day? Don’t worry, you are not alone. According to a study by the Virgin Pulse Institute, as much as 40% out of their 1,140 respondents reported dozing off at work once per month. One in six workers also came clean about sleeping at their desk at least once a week.
In a surprising move, a growing number of companies addressed this issue by allowing their employees to sleep at their office premises during work hours. It’s something that is unheard of in the past, but companies like Google, Time Warner and Ben & Jerry’s provide office amenities like “sleeping pods” or “nap rooms” to their sleep-deprived employees. A few of their Asian counterparts are quickly catching on to this trend as Japanese, as well as Singaporean firms now also offer similar perks at their respective workplaces.
The dangers of sleep deprivation in the workplace
Experts recommend 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night for one to feel fully refreshed for a day of work ahead. Getting anything less than that can cause reduced productivity and higher stress levels at work. A sleep-impaired person in the office is easy to spot – they are irritable, forgetful and inattentive. In extreme cases, a lack of sleep can also lead to hallucinations and impairment comparable to someone who went over the legal alcohol limit.
Accounts professional Ikuko Yamada tells Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper of the inconveniences faced by sleepy employees while working. ‘If I use a calculator when I’m sleepy, I have to double-check my work for fear of making mistakes, so it takes longer. I think my work performance has improved since I started taking naps,’ says Yamada.
Dr. Michael Breus of Valley Sleep Center in Arizona in the US, a diagnostic testing facility that diagnoses and treats sleep disorders, says that it’s in the best interest of companies to have fully-rested employees. This is especially important in high-stress careers such as police enforcement and medical professions but even employees in the corporate sector can benefit greatly from taking short 20 to 30-minute naps during work hours.
He adds, ‘When you’re tired, everything is terrible, right? You’re more likely to make mistakes. You’re more likely to make unethical decisions. You’re more likely to get into a fight with your boss!’
Sleeping tips and tricks for the home and office
While office sleeping pods may sound cool and revolutionary, of course nothing beats completing the required amount of sleep hours at home. Erratic sleep schedules can be quite disruptive, so sticking to a sleep schedule can help do wonders for your health. As much as possible go to bed and get up on the same time each day, and that includes the weekends and holidays. Doing so conditions your body to follow a consistent sleep cycle which helps promote better sleep patterns. It may take some time getting used to, but establishing bedtime rituals, such as reading or listening to calming music works. However, going on social media or catching a movie on Netflix may make it harder for sleep to come. That is because the bright lights from the screen may delay the release the melatonin – a natural hormone in our bodies which triggers sleep and is induced by darkness. Be also mindful of the food and drinks you take before sleeping. Having nicotine and caffeine are out of the question, while going on an empty or full stomach would also make it harder for you to fall asleep. As with many other things in life, moderation is the key.
Now here’s where things get a bit tricky. Lucky for you if your employers have allotted rooms for a mid-day nap, but if your only option is your desk or cubicle then you just need to be extra crafty to make the most of this opportunity. Timing is everything, so choose your break time to doze off while at work. That’s when most people go out for lunch anyway so you can have the peace and serenity that you need. Dim the lights if you can as trying to get sleepy with harsh, indoor lighting would be next to impossible. Bring out pillows if you have them so you can be assured of a short but comfy nap. Don’t forget to set your alarm just before your break time’s over – we don’t want to get you in trouble with your bosses if ever your sleep stretches on too long.
Dr. Jennifer Turgiss, who co-authored Virgin Pulse Institute’s study on sleep in the workplace has the final word on this topic. She says, ‘Employers must address sleep issues in order to create a thriving workforce and business,’ which she says can be achieved by offering programs that promote adequate sleep, as well as by encouraging employees to use up vacation days for rest and relaxation.
‘Not only will employees be more rested, but they’ll feel more supported by their employers, helping them perform better and become better able to engage in work and in life.’ Everybody wins in the end, so go on and catch up on your sleep.