Stressed out and sleepy? Try 40 winks at your desk

Bring your own pillow - taking a power nap at work.Photo: Bill Smith

Bring your own pillow - taking a power nap at work.Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Being caught sleeping on the job is generally a cause for discipline, dismissal or disapproval, but an NHS Online 'life coaching expert' has suggested overworked staff should keep a pillow under their desk in case they need a snooze at work. STACIA BRIGGS finds out if power naps boost productivity.

There are some days when even an industrial vat of strong coffee will fail to energise you in the office, when you wish the boardroom was a bedroom and you could just lie down for a swift spot of shut-eye.

Employers, however, tend to take a dim view of napping at work, treating sleep in the same way they'd treat surfing the internet: as something employees should be doing in their own time.

But some of the biggest names in business are beginning to cotton on to the fact that a well-rested staff member can be more productive – figures suggest that tired staff cost companies $150 billion a year in lost productivity and NASA recently revealed that a 26-minute midday nap can boost performance by as much as 34 per cent.

While companies such as Google, Nike and Proctor and Gamble introduce sleep pods for staff, the rest of the world is groggily awakening to news that napping at work is something to celebrate rather than a cause for sacking.

NHS Online's life coaching expert Jayne Morris this week came under fire for suggesting that staff should grab a 20 minute 'power nap' in the middle of the working day, keeping a pillow and blanket to hand should the urge to doze strike.

She said naps would decrease stress, enable tired brains to 'clear thought clutter and boost creativity', be beneficial to heart health and cell repair, adding that 20 minutes' sleep during the day would lower stress hormone levels and super-charge an employee's stamina.

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'I worked in Japan for three years where burnout is a massive problem,' she said, 'over there they dim all the lights at lunchtime in some companies and let everyone have a little snooze.

'In Spain they have siestas, though that's to do with the weather. If we are shifting to longer working hours then you either manage it better or support it better.

'Sleep is one of the most important things our bodies need, yet often what we cut out when we get caught burning the candle both ends. If you find yourself fighting fatigue during the day, try taking a power nap.'

Although Nike-branded sleeping pods may be the ideal place to steal 40 winks, Ms Morris believes that with a little creativity, naps can be grabbed 'almost any time, any place'.

'Keep a pillow under your desk or a blanket in your car. Release any inner gremlins telling you that you are lazy for napping. Remind yourself of the benefits,' she said.

If it's difficult to sleep easily at your desk, Ms Morris suggests the use of earplugs and eye masks and advises that blinds are drawn to create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.

Not everyone, however, has Ms Morris' laid-back attitude to sleeping on the job.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'When there is serious pressure on health budgets, taxpayers will find it astonishing that NHS Online is spending money on a 'life coach'.

'It is all the more absurd that the coach is suggesting that office workers sleep on the job. If they're taking that advice seriously, it's little wonder the economy is stagnating.'