How sleeping on the job can actually improve your performance

Taking a quick nap at work. It seems like a major professional faux pas, right? However, that old taboo might actually be a thing of the past.

According to Christopher Lindholst, CEO of Restworks -- a company that provides workplace rest and napping installations for corporations, hospitals, and universities -- napping at work could actually be key to helping employees reach their full potential.

As a matter of fact, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 29% of respondents admitted to falling asleep or becoming very sleepy while on the job. Even further, it's reported that sleep deprivation costs American companies up to $63.2 billion per year in lost productivity.

So, it's no wonder that some big, well-known companies -- think Google, NASA, and Zappos -- are implementing these mid-day snoozes to help give their team members a boost. And, they aren't just expecting employees to slouch in their own desk chairs.

No, brief naps have become a key part of their company cultures, meaning they give their teams the appropriate spaces and atmospheres (from comfy chairs to dedicated nap rooms) to catch a few z's when they feel the need to recharge at work.

RELATED: Here are six easy ways to beat work burnout:

6 ways to beat work burnout
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6 ways to beat work burnout
1. Take a day off—or more. You can keep your fading work fire from burning all that way out by taking a vacation day. "You need a detox from the intensity of work," Salemi explains, "so now more than ever is the time to use your personal time off." Use the day to unplug from technology and indulge in rejuvenating activities such as mediation, yoga, or even a massage. And when you return to work, "you also need to take extreme care of yourself, like going to bed an hour early every night," she says.
2. Be social. It might seem counterintuitive to focus on friends and family when you feel like you're slipping behind on the job. But, "setting up family-time is exactly what you need to do," says Jacinto. After all, these are the people who can help you understand why you might be burning out to begin with—and they're certainly the people who can help you feel better. "Do your best to not let your office life overflow into the quality time you spend with your friends and family," Jacinto encourages.
3. Add something new to your routine. You've probably tried to spice up your sex life at some point—so why not try to spice up your work life too? Salemi says it can be as simple as committing to taking your full lunch hour away from your desk. As she commiserates, "When I worked in corporate recruiting and was burned out by an exploding inbox, I made sure to do things during lunchtime that got my mind off things, like going to the local drugstore to peruse magazines or making a mental list of new movies I wanted to see and more. You need to take a break, get fresh air, and realize there is more to life than the avalanche of work you're buried under."
4. Sweat it out. We know there are immense benefits to exercising each day—and one of them could reflect in your work. "Whether it's walking to the office, taking the stairs, or setting up walking meetings, you can slowly transform your mood [with exercise]," says Jacinto. Additionally, she recommends fighting work burnout with healthy meals. "Eating right will help give you fuel to master your day," she says.
5. Talk to your boss. It's an intimidating prospect to admit to your boss that you're just not that into the job anymore. But think of it this way: Chances are, if you're feeling burnt out, you're not giving your boss your best work, and your boss needs to know why so that she can be a part of the solution rather than (unknowingly) adding to the problem. "Explain that you're on the brink of burnout and you're concerned it's affecting your health," suggests Salemi, who adds that your boss could help by delegating excess work and setting goals that will get you back on track.
6. Cut back. If your boss doesn't present any viable solutions—or if you can't bring yourself to chat with her in the first place—it's time to assess your work situation yourself. "See what changes you can make to improve your ability to do the best work," says Jacinto. For example, "is there a particular manager who is always barking orders and essentially has a black cloud following them? Chances are their mood is being passed onto you—and in that case, can you ask human resources for a transfer? Or are you overloaded with projects at the moment? Perhaps delegating a project to another team or your assistant will help you focus and distress."

But, is this napping phenomenon really all it's cracked up to be?

Won't Employees Just Sleep All Day?

"When people first encounter the idea of napping at work, we often find they initially think that employees are going to sleep all day once you introduce the concept," says Lindholst, "But, that's not what happens at all."

Lindholst compares the napping concept to installing a fitness center at your office. Just because you've opened the on-site gym doesn't mean employees will abandon their desks and spend all day on the elliptical.

"They understand that this type of policy and facility is something to be thankful for and respected," he adds, "We provide guidance to our employers about this, but our installations are also designed to help users understand that the most efficient benefit they can get is from short, 15-20 minute naps."

The Science of Napping

Here's another criticism of workplace dozing that often crops up: Won't these afternoon power naps just cause employees to feel groggy and unmotivated?

It's an understandable question, but Lindholst asserts that it's not an issue.

"The science of napping is the same as that of sleep," he explains, "Essentially, your brain goes through various levels of activity -- called stages -- as you relax."

When you take a nap, you only touch on the lighter stages of sleep, which makes it much easier to wake up and resume activity. And, while many people assume that our minds simply shut down when we're sleeping, that isn't necessarily true either. Our brains remain very active at various stages of sleep.

""These short segments of sleep are actually restorative," Lindholst adds, "Naps have been well documented to improve alertness by 30%, and regular napping has health benefits including reducing risk of cardiovascular disease by 37%."

Are Naps the Future of Work?

It seems odd to think that sleeping on the job could become a widely accepted part of the workday, but it appears as if that's the direction we're heading in.

Of course, not all companies will institute a napping policy to help employees power through those mid-afternoon slumps. But, for those who do choose to offer this perk, it's somewhat easy to see why.

"Sleeping on the job is one of the best things you can do to boost your professional performance," concludes Lindholst, "A short, 15-20 minute nap boosts your cognitive abilities supporting productivity, improves your mood, and has long-term health benefits."

Well, in that case, go ahead and pass me a pillow.

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